How grants can help agencies retain officers

Securing federal, state, corporate and private grants to enhance your officer retention strategies may be one of the best ways to fund your efforts


In today’s good economic climate, retaining officers within your law enforcement agency may be one of your greatest human resource challenges. Your strategies to improve police officer retention may include higher compensation, training, new technology tools and equipment to enhance officer wellness and your public safety mission. Most of these strategies are costly, and funding may not be available within your budget to cover these costs.

Securing federal, state, corporate and private grants to enhance your officer retention strategies may be one of the best ways to cover your funding dilemma. Here some grant options to consider.

Police training grants

We know that in-classroom training, specialized online courses or table-top exercises enhance an officer’s skills. Training also increases an officer’s sense of value to the organization making him or her more likely to stay. Officer training is an allowable cost in many federal, state, corporate and private grants. Consider incorporating a training component into any grant-funded project you pursue and include funds in the budget to cover the cost.

Possible federal funding sources to consider include:

  • The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) is the leading source of federal funding for state and local criminal justice purposes. JAG funds can be used to cover a host of criminal justice needs including training. Most of the funding is received through a designated State Administering Agency (SAA) who is responsible for sub-awarding a certain percentage to local criminal justice agencies. Certain municipalities receive a local JAG allocation directly from the federal government based on their share of their state’s three-year violent crime average.
  • Emergency Management Performance Grants (EMPG) are federal grant dollars awarded to states to assist state, local, territorial and tribal governments in preparing for all-hazards events. It is a very training focused program. Reach out to your State Administering Agency or Emergency Management Agency to discuss your training needs and how to obtain a grant through EMPG.
  • Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) School Violence Prevention Grants allow state and local units of governments and tribes to improve security at schools and on school grounds through evidence-based school safety practices. Training for local law enforcement officers to prevent student violence against others and self is one of the safety measures covered under this program. A 25 percent cash match is required.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security offer many Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) opportunities throughout the year. Although TTA is not a monetary grant awarded directly to your agency, these programs allow you to apply for valuable training opportunities from experts across the country. Consider these options through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the COPS Office, the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) and Homeland Security.

Police technology and equipment grants

The federal government annually makes competitive grant funding available to cover technology, equipment and supplies for law enforcement. The Department of Justice Program Plan is a great source for finding out what opportunities are available this year for public safety purposes.

Pursue these options if you haven’t already:

  • The Body-Worn Camera (BWC) Policy and Implementation Program allows law enforcement agencies to pilot, establish or enhance body-worn camera programs. The federal portion covers up to $1,500 per camera, but a 50 percent in-kind or cash match is required.
  • Since 1999, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) program has supported 50 percent of the cost of protective ballistic or stab-resistant armor vests for officers across the country. All vests must be National Institute of Justice (NIJ)-certified and uniquely fitted to the individual. Agencies must also have a written “mandatory-wear” policy in place prior to receiving the grant funding.
  • In addition to training, Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funding can support technology and equipment across criminal justice agencies. Consider this funding source if you need to equip your officers with communications technology, tactical equipment or police cruisers.

Police safety and wellness grants

Grants can also support programs that support officer safety and wellness as a means of improving officer retention. Here are some to consider:

  • The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) JAG and VALOR programs encourage applicants to focus on officer safety and wellness. BJA sees a vital need to focus not only on tactical officer safety concerns, but also on health and wellness as they affect officer performance and safety.
  • Community foundations across the country support law enforcement health and wellness initiatives. The Foundation Center is a great resource for locating the community foundation that operates in your area. Examples of community foundation partnerships providing funding to assist with officer retention include:
  • Backing the Blue is a $15-million grant from the Communities Foundation of Texas to the Dallas Police Department to fund critical equipment needs, study best police practices and prepare leaders in the Dallas PD to become better educated and better trained officers.
  • Great Falls Police Community Foundation is dedicated to helping the community keep pace with rapidly evolving technology, strategies and training. Videos created with the funding highlight the risks and challenges officers face daily.
    • The Code3 Foundation is focused on the Metro Washington D.C. area and has supported numerous projects to educate, equip and empower police with tools and resources. Among its many awarded grants includes one to Prince William County Police Department to establish a wellness and resiliency unit.

Finally, consider grants that may be offered through your agency’s healthcare insurer, local grocery stores, banks or utility companies in your areas. Many corporations have funding arms supporting police, corrections and first responders across the country.

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