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12/9/2020 | Justice Transformation

Feeding the Beast: A scope of federal funding for state and local law enforcement

Each year, the federal government sends billions of dollars in funding, equipment, and other resources to state and local law enforcement.

    These federal outlays are on top of upwards of one hundred billion dollars spent by states and localities on policing each year. Federal resources have been a key way that the federal government has helped build and sustain police power and has influenced local, county, and state budget and policy priorities.

    Federal funding for local and state police comes from dozens of programs across multiple departments, including the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of the Interior. Many of these programs were created to support the disastrous, violent, and racist “war on drugs” and “war on terror,” encouraging states and localities to adopt federal anti-drug and anti-terrorism priorities, increase arrests and incarceration, build more prisons, increase spending on policing, and create increasingly punitive approaches to addressing drug use and sales, immigration, and protests.

    Over the past few decades, Congress has helped build and continues to perpetuate the crisis of policing through its power of the purse. That crisis includes the criminalization, targeted policing, and mass incarceration of Black and brown communities; police violence and killing of Black people; and lack of police accountability. Download the report to learn more.