Durbin Delivers Opening Statement During Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Oversight of the COPS Program

In line with Durbin’s mission to revitalize the Committee’s oversight role, today’s hearing is the first full Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the COPS program since its creation in 1994

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered an opening statement during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Oversight of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Grant Program,” which will examine the COPS program and its efforts to promote community-oriented policing practices at law enforcement agencies across the country.  Today’s hearing is the first full Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the COPS program since its creation in 1994. 

Key Quotes:

“This is the first-ever full Committee oversight hearing on the COPS program.  It’s an example of our continued commitment to revitalizing this Committee’s oversight role.”

“The COPS Office was created to advance the vision of community policing and build trust between law enforcement and the public.  By many metrics, the program is realizing its goal.  As a result of COPS funding, over 135,000 police officers have been hired and placed on the beat at the state and local level.  COPS funding for law enforcement training programs has improved the effectiveness of our police.”

“The COPS Office’s PASS grants have provided funds forscenario-based training to prepare officers to safely and effectively manage active-shooter events and other violent threats.”

“This year, the COPS Office will begin providing funding for de-escalation training for local law enforcement officers.  This is thanks to the Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act, bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Cornyn and Coons that this Committee approved and President Biden signed.”

“We have also authorized the COPS office to provide grants formental health services for officers, recognizing that law enforcement is indeed a very stressful job and takes its toll on many officers.  Last year, this Committee advanced legislation to allow COPS grants to be used to recruit and retain new officers and to provide training for those who agree to serve in the communities where they live.  These bills passed the Senate unanimously and are now awaiting passage in the House.  I hope Speaker Johnson will move these bills quickly.”

“Contrary to many political claims that are not true, Democrats do not support defunding the police.  The Senate has consistently supported the COPS program with new appropriations, including over $600 million this fiscal year.”

“There are countless examples of police officers who have acted heroically, risking their lives, and in some instances, giving their lives in response to an emergency.  They’ve saved the lives of many innocent people in the process… We also must acknowledge the breakdown in trust between law enforcement officers and some of the communities they serve.”

“I called last year for a national conversation about policing in a responsible, constitutional, and humane way. I still believe that conversation is urgently needed.  Our communities deserve real transparency in policing and real accountability for misconduct.”

“Proposals for more comprehensive reforms to policing, such as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, have also been made.  We need to pass these reforms to fully repair the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.  And, we can do more to leverage the expertise and capacity of the COPS Office to advance community-oriented policing that serves and protects us.”

Video of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.

In 1994, the Democratic-controlled Congress passed, and President Clinton signed into law, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, authorizing $8.8 billion in new spending over six years to create the COPS Program.  Between 1995 and 2008, the COPS program awarded more than $4 billion to law enforcement agencies to hire over 55,000 additional police officers.

The mission of the COPS office is to advance public safety through community policing, focusing on collaborative efforts to prevent and respond to crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.  Starting in 1998, an increased portion of the congressional funding for COPS has been dedicated to programs to help law enforcement agencies purchase new equipment, combat methamphetamine production, upgrade criminal history record systems, and improve their forensic science capabilities.

The COPS office works to support state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement through grants, training, and technical assistance.  Although the largest COPS grant remains the COPS Hiring Program, significant grant funding, at least $83 million per year, is now provided for anti-drug initiatives, de-escalation training, school violence prevention, preparing for active shooter situations, and law enforcement mental health and wellness programs.  The COPS program also provides micro-grants for community policing development activities, such as promoting access to crisis intervention teams, supporting and expanding law enforcement accreditation, meeting the needs of underserved populations, and building trust and legitimacy with the community.