March 1, 1999
Wiener Center for Social Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government

The COPS Program was designed to increase the scale of policing in America: "to put 100,000 additional cops on the streets." But the federal program was also designed to change the predominant strategy and operations of American policing: from a strategy that emphasized reactive law enforcement, to one that emphasized proactive community problem-solving. To the extent that the expenditure of federal dollars, and the use of federal prestige and authority was justified by the aim of producing this strategic change in American policing, the success of the COPS program in achieving this result necessarily becomes an important part of the program's evaluation. The best way to measure the impact of the COPS program on the field of policing is through surveys of police departments conducted by the Urban Institute. These surveys offer reliable evidence on the extent to which a representative sample of American police departments have changed their strategy and operations over the last several years, and the role that the COPS grants played in effecting these changes.

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