Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Power of the Purse: How the Feds Drive Local Law Enforcement

Since its origins forty years ago with the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, the war on crime has been fomented by the federal government. While states have done the hard work of building and filling prisons, the federal government has helped build both public demand, and the revenue resources, to lead states into escalating crime wars.

Sometimes these overt efforts to buy the attention of local law enforcement and prosecutors, overriding the constitutional order of local choices about police power, come to surface in embarrassing ways. On Monday, San Francisco DA, Kamala Harris issued a statement promising a full investigation of why her office took over 5 million dollars of federal money since 2004 as part of the Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative intended to compensate local prosecutors for prosecuting border enforcement related crimes. (Read Jaxon Van Derbeken's story in the SFChron) Cracking down on immigrants is not popular in liberal San Francisco, but that didn't stop the office from being the largest grant recipient in Northern California. Of over 2,000 cases submitted to the federal auditors, none was a genuine "border crime," according to the feds. Harris vowed to investigate the office's use of grant funds and the basis for their claim that in the absence of active prosecutions of border related crimes

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