I was alarmed to read that a recent article ["Law and Order," news story, June 1] criticized the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program because "only" 50,139 officers have been deployed to the street. This implies that the COPS program is behind schedule. However, the opposite is true.

The first step in meeting this goal is a six-year funding process that is authorized to continue until Sept. 30, 2000. On May 12, the COPS office funded the 100,000th officer -- more than a year ahead of schedule.

It takes an agency an average of 18 months to recruit, hire and train an appropriate candidate. The public would not be well served if we directed grantees to compromise their recruiting, hiring or training procedures for new officers simply to demonstrate that the COPS program could result in officers on the street overnight.

The fact that more than 50,000 additional officers are already on the street fighting crime is a clear sign the program is working.

The article also referred to a recent summary of individual COPS grantee audits by the Department of Justice inspector general. What the article failed to mention was that these audits represent less than 1.2 percent of COPS grantees. It also failed to report that most of these cases -- 103 of them -- were referred to the inspector general by the COPS office because we had identified areas of possible noncompliance.

It is therefore misleading to imply this high-risk, non-random sample is representative of the universe of COPS grantees or to draw broader conclusions about the program as a whole.



The writer is director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the U.S. Department of Justice.