Alexandria Echo Press - 01/28/2009

After meeting with Minnesota law enforcement officials, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar said that funding for local law enforcement should be included in the economic recovery plan currently being considered in Congress.

“The severe economic downturn is hitting local police departments on two fronts,” said Klobuchar. “They must contend with budget cuts at the same time they face the prospect of more crime.”

Klobuchar is a new member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has oversight responsibility for law enforcement issues. Prior to her election to the Senate, Klobuchar served for eight years as the Hennepin County Attorney.

Klobuchar said that she wants to strengthen federal support for local law enforcement, beginning with the Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which helps local communities hire extra police officers or pay for overtime to keep more officers on the streets.

Since COPS was created in 1994, Minnesota has received $135 million in funding, providing for more than 1,400 additional police officers and sheriff’s deputies and directly benefiting 367 law enforcement agencies statewide.

Thanks to COPS, Minneapolis was able to hire 81 new officers in the mid and late 1990s. The city then experienced its lowest crime rates in three decades and shed its reputation as “Murderapolis,” Klobuchar said.

“COPS enjoys bipartisan support and it has a proven record of reducing crime by helping local communities hire extra police officers,” said Klobuchar.

An independent research report last year by the Brookings Institution concluded that COPS contributed to the significant national drop in crime during the 1990s, describing it as “one of the most cost-effective options available for fighting crime.” The report estimated that each dollar spent on the COPS program generates somewhere between $4 and $8.50 in benefits to society.

Federal aid to local law enforcement has declined by nearly half in the past eight years. Klobuchar said that, in addition to COPS, there should be additional funding for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, which supports a range of local law enforcement activities.

“I’ve always believed that the first responsibility of government is to protect the safety of its citizens,” said Klobuchar. “That responsibility begins right here at the local level in our neighborhoods and our communities. To fulfill that essential responsibility, local police need the support of our government in Washington.”