Trump’s Justice Department Pick Wanted to Take Away COPS Funds

Criminal justice researchers are concerned about a Heritage Foundation analyst who has argued against a federal program to aid community policing.

WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump has long boasted of his strong support for law enforcement officers and called himself a law-and-order president. But he made a little-noticed appointment Tuesday night that has alarmed the nation’s top police union: He named a top Justice Department appointee who built his career opposing federal funding for local law enforcement.

Trump named David Muhlhausen, a veteran analyst from the conservative Heritage Foundation, to head the National Institute of Justice, DOJ’s research and development agency. Muhlhausen, a former manager of a juvenile correctional facility who joined Heritage in 1999, is a longtime opponent of the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), which has distributed billions of dollars to local law enforcement over the past two decades.

“The COPS program has an extensive track record of poor performance and should be eliminated,” Muhlhausen wrote in 2013. “These grants also unnecessarily perform functions that are the responsibility of state and local governments.”

It was Muhlhausen’s research that led The Heritage Foundation to recommend the elimination of COPS, which led to concerns that the Trump budget (which heavily relied on a Heritage Foundation budget blueprint) would gut the program.

Despite Heritage’s recommendations, COPS is strongly supported by law enforcement, including the National Fraternal Order of Police, which backed Trump in the presidential campaign.

When it comes to the COPS office, Muhlhausen “basically doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” James Pasco, executive director of the FOP, told HuffPost. Pasco noted that Muhlhausen, in his position as director of the National Institute of Justice, wouldn’t have any direct oversight of COPS. Pasco said that the survival of the COPS program, despite critics like Muhlhausen, has led to better policing on the street.

“I know he’s got a distinguished academic background,” Pasco added. “I hope that he’s aware that it’s the program administered by [COPS] ― recruiting, hiring, training ― keeping cops at the professional level they’re at today [that lets him] sleep safely in his bed every night.”

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