The impact of police reform on law enforcement grants

What “reform” will look like in the coming months is unknown, but funding will be needed to address recommendations


Before COVID-19 and current nationwide calls for police reform, President Trump’s FY 2021 budget proposal totaled $31.7 billion for the Department of Justice to support federal law enforcement and criminal justice priorities of the state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.

The Department of Justice’s proposed areas of investment included:

  • +$942.2 million to strengthen federal law enforcement’s ability to counter violent crime and support communities to prevent violent crime.
  • +$638.8 million in resources to counter incidents of mass violence and support state and local agencies in their efforts to prevent violent crime.
  • +$379.6 million to fight the opioid crisis, with additional resources devoted to combatting transnational criminal organizations known for supplying illicit substances to the United States.
  • +$409.5 million to continue the implementation of the First Step Act of 2018 (FSA). These investments support numerous programs dedicated to reducing recidivism among federal offenders.
  • +$143.1 million in immigration-related program enhancements to stem the tide of illegal immigration, address increased caseload and enforce our nation’s immigration laws.
  • +$122.8 million in program enhancements to address critical national security and cyber threats.
  • $4.3 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding for federal grants to state, local and tribal law enforcement and victims of crime to ensure greater safety for law enforcement personnel and the people they serve, and critical programs aimed at protecting the life and safety of state and local law enforcement personnel, including the Public Safety Partnership Program and the Project Safe Neighborhood Program.

For more information, view the FY 2021 Budget and Performance Summary.

As noted above, $4.3 billion was being requested to assist state and local law enforcement and their criminal justice partners. Budget negotiations continue with the added dynamics of a rapidly changing prioritization of funding needs to protect communities throughout the United States.

CORONAVIRUS RELIEF

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act provided $150 billion for a coronavirus relief fund to make payments to states and tribal governments and direct payments to some large units of local government within 30 days of the enacted date. This bill was signed into law on March 27, 2020.

Within the CARES Act, $850 million was slated for the Department of Justice who would utilize the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant’s formula to determine the allocation amount to state and local recipients. The funds would be restricted to items directly related to expenses associated with addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Items covered would include personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and or overtime incurred as departments changed business practices to police in a socially distant world.

CALLS FOR POLICE REFORM

Priorities changed in the aftermath of George Floyd's death, as protests erupted throughout the country leading to a unified call for police reform. What “reform” will look like in the coming months is unknown, but funding will be needed to address the recommendations set forth while local governments struggle to meet pre-existing budget shortfalls to pay for salary, benefits and general operating expenses.

President Trump’s Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities was issued on June 16, 2020.

Section 2(b) states that the Attorney General shall allocate Department of Justice discretionary grant funding only to those state and local law enforcement agencies that have sought or are in the process of seeking appropriate credentials from a reputable independent credentialing body certified by the Attorney General.

Section 3 discusses information sharing and states that the Attorney General shall create a database to coordinate the sharing of information between and among federal, state, local tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies concerning instances of excessive use of force related to law enforcement matters, accounting for applicable privacy and due process rights. Further in Section 3 is a statement to the effect that discretionary funds will only be made to departments that comply with the information-sharing standards outlined in this area.

Section 4 addresses mental health, homelessness and addiction. In consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, resources would be considered to identify and develop opportunities to train law enforcement officers concerning encounters with individuals suffering from impaired mental health, homelessness, and addiction, and to increase the capacity of social workers working directly with law enforcement agencies.

These are just of few of the items outlined in the full document linked here.

HOW DO WE PAY FOR POLICE REFORM?

Several grant programs already exist to address reform issues. It will become a matter or what level of funding will be approved for these line items. Departments should become familiar with the following programs to prepare for future funding opportunities:

Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program

The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to states and units of local government. Funds may be used to provide additional personnel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, training, technical assistance and information systems for criminal justice. Additional resources are available here.

Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program

The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP) supports cross-system collaboration to improve public safety responses and outcomes for individuals with mental illnesses (MI) or co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse (CMISA) who come into contact with the justice system.

JMHCP offers grants to help entities prepare comprehensive plans to implement collaboration programs that target qualified offenders and promote public safety and public health. Specifically, per the authorizing statute, grants awarded under this program shall be used to create or expand:

  • Programs that support cooperative efforts by public safety officials and service providers (at any point in the system) to connect individuals with MI or CMISA with treatment and social services.
  • Mental health courts or other court-based programs.
  • Programs that offer specialized training for public safety officials and mental health providers to respond appropriately to individuals with MI or CMISA.
  • Programs that support intergovernmental cooperation between state and local governments to address enhanced support to individuals with MI or CMISA.

Support for youth may be available under the Juvenile Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JJMHCP). This was a new program for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency (OJJD) in FY 2020. Departments were eligible to apply for up to $750,000 for this program. Additional funds were made available under the Department to Health to address gaps in funding disparities.

INFORMATION-SHARING RESOURCES

The State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Information Sharing Technical Assistance Program is offered in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) funds this training and technical assistance program to support the standardization and promulgation of information-sharing practices, and the identification and sharing of state, local, tribal and territorial promising practices and lessons learned.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) - Funding website provides grant resource information and includes current solicitation, applications and forms, and a list of funding programs.

On August 3, 2020, the Department of Justice released an urgent message regarding compliance with Title 5, United States Code Section 9101 – the federal law that requires the sharing of criminal history record information with federal government agencies for background investigation purposes. The following federal programs were recommended in the notice:

  • National Criminal History Improvement Grant Program (NCHIP): The NCHIP application must be submitted by the agency designated by the governor to administer the NCHIP or a federally recognized Indian tribe. Please reach out to your State Administering Agency (SAA) for additional information.
  • The FEMA grant program is another source of financial assistance to help agencies automate their Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) to share with the federal government. Non-disaster grants management system resources can be found here.

Please note that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), has developed special conditions for federal grants involving information technology. Before grant funds are distributed, award recipients must first provide a brief description of their projects to the State Information Technology Point of Contact. More information can be found in the Grantee Information Section.

ALTERNATIVES TO GOVERNMENT GRANT FUNDERS

FY2020 has brought with it an opportunity for departments to partner with corporate and community foundations. Throughout the country, funders are embracing the concept of Social Responsibility. This is not limited to faith-based and community organizations; many have stepped up to support the first responder community, especially in the area of training. Departments are encouraged to discuss their needs with representatives from their area Economic Development agencies and Community Foundations to develop a unified plan for safety.

In short, economic recovery efforts will not work if communities are not safe.

In addition to GrantFinder, many online resources offer users the option to sign up for email notifications so that you don’t miss any important deadlines. Take the time to specify the type of information you wish to receive and the frequency of the notices so that you aren’t bombarded with emails.

You may want to also check out previous articles like 9 Keys for Police to Secure Private-Sector Funding and Private Funding for Public Safety for more non-government resources. The private sector provides some funding resources for law enforcement, but careful research and planning is required to locate and access this funding stream.

For additional support, the PoliceGrantsHelp team is ready to assist.

NEXT: Beyond federal assistance: State COVID-19 response grants

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