Monday, October 10, 2011

COPS Grant Awards Announced And It Looks Like It's Slim Pickings

The US Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) recently announced the awards of the 2011 COPS Hiring Program grants.

The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) today announced more than $243 million in grants awarded nationwide to 238 law enforcement agencies and municipalities for the hiring of new officers and deputies.

The awards were made through the COPS Hiring Program, a competitive grant program that provides funding directly to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to hire police officers dedicated to addressing specific crime and disorder challenges confronting communities. The grants provide 100 percent funding for the entry-level salaries and benefits of newly-hired, or rehired, full-time officer positions over a three-year period.

For the 2011 COPS Hiring Program, 2,712 applications were received requesting more than $2 billion and 8,999 positions. Funding decisions were based on an agency’s commitment to community policing, crime rates, changes in law enforcement budgets, and other local fiscal data (poverty, unemployment, foreclosure rates, etc.).

With 238 agencies being awarded grants out of the 2,712 that applied, that works out to only 8.7% of applicants receiving funds.

The COPS Hiring Program grants have been criticized by some as encouraging law enforcement agencies to hire cops they can't afford because the grant only pays for salaries for a three year period, after which the local agency will have to pick up the tab. But this criticism is a bit simplistic.

At the agency where I work, we've seen a 47% increase in population in the 10 years between the 2000 and 2010 Census. The Central Texas area is consistently ranked as one of the 10 fastest growing areas on the United States. This huge increase in population also means that there is a huge increase in demands for police services.

However, it takes a few years for the population increase to mean that there is a corresponding increase in tax revenue to pay for those services. While the population increase is felt immediately, the tax money to pay for the increase in services is not usually seen until the next budget cycle or two. A COPS Hiring Grant can help an agency like ours put boots on the ground quicker in order to keep up with the demand for police services.

Yes, an agency that hires officers using a COPS Hiring Program grant without making adequate plans to pick up the cost after three years is misguided. But not every agency does that and we certainly don't where I work.

I have a feeling that with the economic and political situation being what they are, we'll likely see even less than 8.7% of applicants getting grants in the years to come. As one Chief of Police recently told me, "it looks like we're on our own from here on out."

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