Funding your fleet: Grants for police vehicles

With some creative thinking, strategic writing and matching your needs to the grant agency’s purpose, you could be awarded funding to upgrade your department's fleet


No matter the size of your police department, maintaining a fleet of vehicles is always a challenge. Competing budget priorities such as officer recruitment, police training and data management technology make new vehicle acquisition even more difficult.

Grants may be a great option to cover new police vehicle purchases. With some creative thinking, strategic writing and matching your needs to the grant agency’s purpose, you could be awarded funding to expand or upgrade your agency’s fleet.  

Here are some funding options to consider:

U.S. Department of Justice Grants

I often mention Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) in my articles as not only is it the largest funding source for police and other law enforcement equipment, but JAG supports activity across the criminal justice system.

Vehicles are an allowable cost under this program but only police cruisers.

Many local municipalities across the country receive a local JAG allocation directly from the federal government based on their share of their state’s three-year violent crime average. Most JAG funding is awarded annually to a designated State Administering Agency (SAA). The SAA is required to sub-grant a large percentage of these funds to local and state agencies that don’t qualify for the local allocations. Reach out to your SAA representative to discuss your needs and inquire about the next application period.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has a mission to support states, local communities and tribal jurisdictions in their efforts to develop and implement effective programs for juveniles. Community policing, gang suppression, and gang desistance and diversion are some of the many program areas they support. Vehicles are an allowable cost as long as they are directly tied to the goals and objectives of the OJJDP grant program and can be justified in your proposed project.

Homeland Security Funding

For several years, the Department of Homeland Security has distributed grant funds under several programs aimed at enhancing the ability of regional authorities to prepare, prevent and respond to terrorist attacks and other disasters. Vehicles are an allowable cost, as long as they fit within your state’s core capabilities strategy.

The State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) provides funding to all states based on a Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA)/Stakeholder Preparedness Review (SPR) of 32 core capabilities. 

The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) provides funding to 31 high-risk urban areas across the U.S.

The Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) provides funding to state and local agencies that manage ports and port operations.

The Transit Security Grant Program (TSG) allocates funding to public transit agencies, including their police units, for homeland security preparedness of transportation infrastructure.

Operation Stonegarden (OSG) is funding targeted toward states with proximity to the international border or international waters for providing security in those areas.

The Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program (THSGP) provides funding for tribes to provide them with the ability to develop and deliver core capabilities using the combined efforts of the whole community.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

For several years the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been offering grants and loans to support public safety services and equipment including police vehicles. The USDA’s Rural Development Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program is available to communities across the country. If you are located in a rural area, and qualify because of your population size and poverty level, consider applying for funding under this program.

U.S. Department of Transportation

Federal dollars from Highway Traffic Safety grants are passed down to states through the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The Section 402 State and Community Highway Safety Grant Program has numerous focus areas, including improving enforcement of traffic safety laws, reducing accidents and enhancing emergency services. Police vehicles have been supported under this program in the past. States typically offer grants to local law enforcement agencies through a competitive application process. Contact your State Transportation Department to inquire how to apply for these funds.

The Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) is a federal grant program that provides funding to states to reduce the number and severity of crashes and hazardous materials incidents involving commercial motor vehicles. Funding has supported several thousand law enforcement officers and equipment necessary to increase enforcement and safety across the U.S. Again, contact your State Transportation Department representatives to find out if funding is available to support your vehicle or in vehicle equipment.

Travel and Tourism

Does your agency provide security for large events, fairs or concerts in your community? Consider reaching out to your state’s Travel and Tourism office to inquire if they have grant funding to support the cost of the equipment and vehicles you need to keep these events safe.  

Green Technology/Zero Emissions Grants

Many police departments are replacing their aging vehicle fleet with alternative fuel or electric cars. If your agency is looking at this option, consider applying for funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). This agency has several funding options to consider under its Clean Cities Coalition Network. Coalitions operate within each major metropolitan region across the country. Reach out to the Clean Cities Coordinator nearest your area to discuss your project needs and inquire about funding.

Private Funding Sources

A host of corporate and private foundations have supported police equipment requests. Your application will be favorably considered if your agency is geographically located within their operating region or your request falls within their current priority focus.

Some of the nation’s largest insurance companies, such as State Farm and MetLife, and automobile manufacturers and rental car companies like Ford, Toyota and Hertz administer grant programs focus on driving safety, law enforcement and community well-being. Also, law enforcement trade associations such as The Spirit of Blue Foundation have grants available to support your in-car equipment and training needs.

Community Foundations operate across the country by providing funding to non-profit and some government agencies focused on keeping their neighborhoods safe and vibrant. The Foundation Center is a great resource for locating the community foundation that operates in your area. Once you find a contact, reach out to your Community Foundation representatives and inquire if they will support a request for a police vehicle or in-car equipment.

I’ve provided a number of grant options for you to pursue to support the cost of upgrading your police fleet. If you need additional assistance with grant research, writing or application review consider reaching out to the team at PoliceGrantsHelp. The team is staffed with numerous experts from across the country who can assist in your grant seeking and application needs.

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