Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pick Me, Pick Me

There are quite a number of stories out about the US Department of Justice awarding COPS grants to allow local law enforcement agencies to hire police officers. Quite a few of the stories were about cities complaining they didn't get any money. One of the best quotes from the stories was this one:

Some single-officer grants went to tony Colorado ski resorts such as Telluride and Vail.


“If you’re concerned about someone cutting the lift line when you go skiing, the formula made sense,” Weiner said. “If you’re more concerned about a terrorist attack on Wall Street, it didn’t.” Source: Politico.com

Based on information released by US DOJ, 454 Texas law enforcement agencies applied for the COPS Hiring Recovery Program (CHRP) grants and 31 agencies were awarded grants. That means that only 6.83% of Texas agencies were awarded grants. Only 14.3% of agencies nationwide got grants so this program was likely to piss off the majority of agencies nationwide when they didn't get any money.

What I am most curious about is how agencies were selected for grant awards. The CHRP website says that the purpose of the grant was:
Part of the stated intent of the Recovery Act from which CHRP funds are allocated is: 1) to preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery; 2) to assist those most impacted by the recession; and 3) to stabilize state and local government budgets, in order to minimize and avoid reductions in essential services and counterproductive state and local tax increases. Source: CHRP website
Additionally, their methodology page speaks to the scoring methodology.

A key policy question in allocating the existing funds was how to balance the economic factors against reported crime and community policing factors that were gathered in the CHRP application. It was determined that fiscal health factors would account for 50% of the total score and reported crime and planned community policing activities would also account for 50% of the final score. In this manner, the COPS Office evenly valued the importance of fiscal distress against reported crime and community policing strategies. This 50/50 split was chosen because it strikes the best balance between the purpose of the Recovery Act, which highlights the role that community policing plays in economic recovery, and the underlying COPS statute and historical mission of supporting public safety and community policing.

Each individual question was assigned a score based on the overall weight given to each category (fiscal health, reported crime and community policing) based on a 100 point scale. Specifically, the questions pertaining to fiscal health were constructed to sum to equal 50 points, the reported crime and community policing indicators to sum to 50 points.

Because of the requirement to award ½ of CHRP funds to agencies with populations greater than 150,000 and ½ to populations less than 150,000, all eligible applicants were split into these two population groups. Applicants in each group were then ranked on each individual question compared to all other applicants in the group. This individual rank on each question was then multiplied by the assigned weight to that specific question. Source: CHRP website

Did your agency apply for a grant? Do you want to see how you fared compared to other agencies? The ranking for every agency is contained in a 215 page document available on the CHRP website. If you're interested in what questions were asked on the application. The application can be found here.

What is interesting is the degree to which community policing was relevant to the awarding of the grant. You might want to take a peek at the application to see what kind of questions were asked about community policing. Those question starts about page 16 of the application. Given that this grant is awarded from DOJ's COPS program, and the whole point of the COPS program is community policing hence the name being an acronym for Community Oriented Police Services it probably should not be surprising that community policing played a large role in the grant methodology.

For all those agencies that didn't get an award, I think the old saw about "don't count your chickens till they hatch" is probably good advice to keep in mind next time one of these grants rolls around.

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