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DOJ Pledges $98 Million for Hiring of Community Policing Officers in Mostly Non-Sanctuary Cities

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice (DoJ) on November 20, 2017 pledged exactly $98,495,397 in grant funding via its Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. Surely, any amount of police grant funding is an ideal boost to local governments and their often strapped economies. And the nearly $100 million going to the chosen 179 law enforcement agencies to hire a grand total of 802 community policing officers makes for quite a Happy Thanksgiving week.

The DoJ grants allocate funding for agencies to hire police officers and cover costs for three years. Typically, the police agencies will apply for further grants and/or aggregate finances via their own tax-based budgets. However, local budgets provide adequate police sustenance about as often as unicorns operate unicycles. COPS grants are huge blessings for PDs, but it won’t stop the search for additional funds. Regardless of size, among its personnel, most law enforcement agencies have at least one sworn officer or a civilian largely dedicated to grant-writing. The Justice Department COPS program is the most direct source for funding opportunities.

Although not many, I discovered a few “sanctuary-listed” governments among those police agencies which were awarded grant funding. We’ll dig into that in a moment, but first let’s define “community policing officers.”

Community Policing Officers

COPS grants relegated for hiring community policing officers is not necessarily geared for some super-specialty in the law enforcement profession. Frankly, despite some police departments dedicating one or more sworn police officers to a specified role such as a Public Affairs Unit or the Crime Prevention Division, each and every cop in America is essentially a community policing officer.

It is self-defining and largely endemic for all cops to perform any and all duties any citizen would expect from every police official. My agency had a cadre of cops assigned to the Crime Prevention Unit but, realistically and respectfully, every cop is a crime prevention practitioner. Although special training and acute focuses of this or that are engendered (I loved scouting streets for midnight burglars), every cop is an official entity equipped to perform police duties empirically: The whole package.

Community policing officer grants increase the size of a police force versus birthing a non-homogeneous type of cop. Grants affording extra cops allows peeling a few uniformed bodies for some concentrated PR work. Cops are cops, through and through. Even homicide detectives or brass-laden police executives sit down with citizens at Coffee with a Cop program venues across the US. Providing dung is not hitting the fan, police/community contacts are fruitful endeavors.

Police officials from the Fairfield, CA police force engage their constituents in a nationwide program dubbed “Coffee with a Cop” whereby members of the community and its police agency gather and get to know each other better. Although California is known as a “sanctuary state,” Fairfield PD is not listed as a sanctuary city as of July 2017. (Credit: Facebook/Fairfield Police Department)

My department routinely participates in Coffee with a Cop. Our agency personnel speak at all Crime Watch meetings, and our cops attend functions in the community to which we are invited. How our cops attend is simplified by the concept of “availability” since we’re all trained universally. For example, if I were not already on a call, I was glad to attend Crime Watch gatherings (they always had yummy cookies, often the only meal I’d get to have shift-long).

Since 1994, the  DoJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services program has funded local, state, and tribal police agencies with a whopping $14 billion.

However, if a Crime Watch president earmarked a discussion among his/her group would focus on a rash of auto burglaries, we would make every effort to dispatch one of our auto theft detectives or one of our street patrol units whose forte is automobile crimes whereby prevention, detection, philosophy, and bad-guy techniques are dissected.

COPS Grants Analytics

Since 1994, the  DoJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services program has funded local, state, and tribal police agencies with a whopping $14 billion.

“Cities and states that cooperate with federal law enforcement make all of us safer by helping remove dangerous criminals from our communities,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Today, the Justice Department announced that 80 percent of this year’s COPS Hiring Program grantees have agreed to cooperate with federal immigration authorities in their detention facilities. I applaud their commitment to the rule of law and to ending violent crime, including violent crime stemming from illegal immigration. I continue to encourage every jurisdiction in America to collaborate with federal law enforcement and help us make this country safer.”

The Justice Department award bulletin explained its criteria establishing police grant eligibility, at its core entailing “cooperation” with the federal agents. “Applicants were notified that their application would receive additional points in the application scoring process by certifying their willingness to cooperate with federal immigration authorities within their detention facilities. Cooperation may include providing access to detention facilities for an interview of aliens in the jurisdiction’s custody and providing advance notice of an alien’s release from custody upon request. Eighty percent of the awarded agencies received additional points based on their certifications of willingness to cooperate with federal immigration authorities,” the DoJ gameplan read.

Since 80 percent were granted extra points, that implies 20 percent were not. I suspect that is why, after comparison, I found several notoriously-known sanctuary cities among COPS grant recipients. Sanctuary jurisdictions aiding/abetting illegal aliens are listed here and the COPS grant recipients are listed here.

Oddly, my research extrapolated 14 of the COPS grant recipients are declared sanctuary cities. Some metropolis departments are included in the 14:  Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Miami-Dade County, Minneapolis, Orange County (FL), Palm Beach County (FL). As Guns.com pointed out, “Notably, California only received $4.1 million in grants, with almost half of that figure going to Sacramento [a non-sanctuary city police department].”

Chicago was awarded $3,125,000 to fund 25 community policing officers. This means Chicago’s anti-Trump mayor, Rahm Emanuel, is enriched by 25 more cops at an enormous expense billed to taxpayers. Same for Houston, Texas, another declared sanctuary city to which COPS granted $3,125,000 for 25 community policing officers.

As you may recall, one of President Trump’s first official acts after assuming office was to sign executive orders restricting (cutting) federal dollars to those jurisdictions cooperating with DHS and ICE.

It is no secret that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel leads a sanctuary city and is an out-and-out denier of President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement policies. The contentious dueling diatribe between Chicago’s governance and White House national security advocacy is not dormant by any means.

Tauntingly, the Sacramento, California police department received a COPS grant worth $1,875,000 equating to 15 new hires…in a county whose sheriff’s department –a sanctuary haven– received zilch. Where is the rhyme or reason? Are we witnessing a tactic of teasing into compliance? Sacramento PD does not operate a city jail. All SPD arrestees are transported to Sacramento county jail, a facility which does not cooperate with Department of Homeland Security detainer expectations.

Californication

Incredulously, a planet of irony evolved on November 20, 2017. The same day the Justice Department announced police grants to mostly non-sanctuary cities, a California-based federal judge “permanently bans” President Donald Trump and the Justice Department efforts to bring sanctuary locales into compliance with federal immigration protocols (cooperation).

Fox News reported, “U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick ruled that the White House does not have the authority to impose new conditions on spending already approved by Congress.”

“The Counties have demonstrated that the Executive Order has caused and will cause them constitutional injuries by violating the separation of powers doctrine and depriving them of their Tenth and Fifth Amendment rights,” Judge Orrick’s Summary Judgement ruling expounded.

“Constitutional injuries” can certainly go another way. The number of American citizens whose illegal alien assailants cause great bodily harm or death have the rights to protections as bona fide US citizens. I can only imagine police officers who serve in sanctuary cities, feeling handcuffed by local leadership dictating a hands-off approach, like Judge Orrick‘s myopicism.

COPS Grants Exemplified

In the August 2017 edition of Community Policing Dispatch, a monthly magazine reporting community policing news published by COPS program officials, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department was showcased (picture opening this article) for its public relations principles. PCSD is neither listed among the nation’s sanctuary status locales nor is it a current grant recipient in the latest round of COPS awards.

In the January 2017 edition of Community Policing Dispatch, Arlington, Texas police Corporal Damien Gary coordinated the department’s Mentoring Arlington Youth (MAY) program in which APD cops hone life skills of youngsters in area schools.

Thanks to a COPS grant, the Arlington, Texas police started the Mentoring Arlington Youth (MAY) program whereby Arlington cops guide youngsters in life skills. (Credit: Arlington Police Department)

As the contentious debate over sanctuary cities, counties, and states percolates, the Justice Department has already prepared a push-back against California federal Judge Orrick whose ruling claims President Trump’s justice department can not restrict the flow of grant monies (tax dollars) to jurisdictions opposing his immigration enforcement policies.

“In September, a federal district court judge in Chicago blocked new requirements the Justice Department attached to grant funding, which required cities to provide federal immigration officials with access to jails and give a two-day notice before releasing a person who is residing in the U.S. illegally or risk funding being cut off,” The Hill reported November 20.

Judge Orrick ruled, “that the County of Santa Clara and the City and County of San Francisco had pre-enforcement standing to protect hundreds of millions of dollars of federal grants from the unconstitutionally broad sweep of the Executive Order.” Protect hundreds of millions of dollars? How about the part whereby cops protect hard-working, taxpaying American citizens from illegal border-crossers who opted in without legal standing.

In fiscal year 2015-2016, Santa Clara County received $1.7 billion in federal dollars. Similar, San Francisco receives $1.2 billion from the feds to help operate its city. Either of these two California jurisdictions made sanctuary-based decisions. Sadly, their constituents and respective police forces are stung by local governance gone ga-ga over illegal immigrants. Choices, choices.

Judge Orrick declared: “The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the Executive Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds. Further, the Tenth Amendment requires that conditions on federal funds be unambiguous and timely made; that they bear some relation to the funds at issue; and that they not be unduly coercive. Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves.”

That sounds like a meaty morsel for the US Supreme Court to chew, deciding once and for all.

Where do you stand?

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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