Grant program is a reminder of officer's sacrifice

Spring is in full swing and so is the 2012 grant season.  Many states have already conducted one or more application cycles and there are many more to come.  As we approach the month of May and National Police Week, I thought it would be appropriate to remember the ultimate sacrifice made by our fellow officers.  Even as I write this article, the Austin Police Department, just three hours south of me, is mourning the recent loss of one of their own.

On February 26, 1988, a young officer only two years into his career with the New York City Police Department was shot and killed while sitting in a marked police vehicle outside of a house where he was working a witness protection detail.  The killing — and its link to an out-of-control drug epidemic — caught the attention of President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush and became the catalyst for a more intensive approach to dealing with the nation’s drug problem.  The Vice President was presented with Officer Byrne’s badge by the officer’s father and often used it as a rallying symbol in his Presidential campaign. 

When he became president, he renamed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 in memory of Officer Byrne — it became the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.   This federal grant funding program is designed to assist state and local law enforcement agencies with purchasing equipment and generating funding for additional personnel.  Today, the grant program is commonly referred to as the Byrne Grant or the JAG Grant.

While the grant program is alive and well, it has undergone many changes since its creation.  Originally, the grant covered 26 law enforcement purposes and was expanded to 29 several years later.  In an effort to align the justice system, some funding areas were spun off into separate grant programs, such as the program areas covered by COPS. 

Today, the Byrne Grant covers seven major focus areas: law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, planning, evaluation and technology improvement and crime victim and witness.  Sixty percent of this grant program is allocated to the states which, in turn, create their own state-wide law enforcement grant program.  The other 40 percent goes directly into local agencies and is allocated based on a predetermined formula.

The local allocation list for FY 2012 has been released and applications are due on May 14, 2012, which is during National Police Week.  Go to the JAG website to read the solicitation. You can also read a 2011 report on the program’s impact on the criminal justice system.

So let’s envision Officer Byrne’s badge held high as a symbol to remind us of the sacrifices made and our dedication to our communities and fellow officers.  Plan well and good luck to you all. 

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