Find funding for what you need: Personnel
An important area law enforcement agencies often try to find outside funding for is personnel. Obviously the cost of full time personnel, which includes salary and benefits, is every agency’s largest expense by far, and finding an alternative source of funds can definitely help to supplement your force.
So, where do you look?
While it isn’t always available, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), part of the Department of Justice, provides funding for law enforcement personnel under its COPS Hiring programs. Over the years, this funding has put thousands of additional police officers on the streets. Unfortunately, COPS funding is restrictive and, therefore, may not fit your needs or circumstances. For instance, under last year’s opportunity, all new officers hired were required to be recent military veterans. Another aspect of COPS funding is that it typically only covers a portion of your actual costs (such as limiting the funds to the level of starting salary and benefits only, or as a percentage of your total cost per officer), and more likely than not you must be able to maintain each officer hired for 12 months following the end of the funded period through your own budget.
The nice thing about COPS funding is that these details are clearly spelled out within the solicitation so you can determine if it’s something you want to pursue. Currently there aren’t any specific hiring opportunities open, and there aren’t any guarantees that funding will be available this year, but keep looking at the COPS website for information and updates.
If you’re submitting an application for a large grant-funded project, such as opportunities offered by the Department of Justice or other federal agencies, you can add in line item personnel costs to your budget — as long as it directly supports the program. This could be for additional personnel who will be involved with the project (typically at 100 percent of their time) and are integral to its success, or for overtime costs for existing personnel to pay for their involvement with the project. Either way, understanding your staffing requirements and building them into the application is definitely a good way to make sure you have all of the resources you need to make your project a success.
In addition to federal resources, many local jurisdictions provide opportunities to add personnel through their own grant programs. Check with your city or county to see if they have any public safety grants available, or if a public safety component could be added to community development or other locally-funded projects. This could also include the DOJ’s Justice Assistance Grants (JAG), funding that is given by the federal government to units of local government to help solve local crime-related problems.
Personnel could also be funded by highway safety grants. Ask your state Department of Transportation or Highway Safety agency if they provide grant funding for police departments. Typical funded topic areas include DUI enforcement, aggressive driving initiatives, pedestrian safety and targeting teen drivers. In addition to funding equipment to implement these efforts, many of these opportunities include funds for officer overtime as an appropriate budget item.
It’s important to remember that most grant opportunities that include personnel expenses require that the funds be used to supplement, not replace, your existing budget. In other words, anything funded by a grant has to be above and beyond what you have already allocated for these activities.
Finding grant funds for personnel costs isn’t a simple task, but it is worth the effort it takes to find those opportunities that assist you in improving public safety in your jurisdiction.