Funding for the Justice Department Community Oriented Policing Services was at its lowest during the Bush administration but it received a boost from Recovery Act money this year, according to a DOJ Office of Inspector General report released today.
The COPS program was established in 1994 to help state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies hire officers, purchase new equipment and train cops. After funding topped out at $1.6 billion in 1998, the yearly COPS allocation went as low as $220 million in 2006, according to the report. In addition, most of the Bush-era COPS grants were used for new equipment and methamphetamine initiatives, the report said.
This year, the COPS program is on the rebound. President Obama requested $761 million for the program on top of the $1 billion COPS already received from the Recovery Act. The DOJ also created the COPS Hiring Recovery Program to help hire more police officers.
“The nature and amount of the Recovery Act funding represents a significant change from COPS’ recent grant program history, both in the amount of funding and in the program to be implemented,” the report said.
The IG report did, however, make some suggestions. The IG recommendations come first, followed by comments from COPS Acting Director Timothy J. Quinn in italics.
-We believe COPS should consider developing guidance to help grant administrators identify the activities that should be provided through contracts rather than through grants or cooperative agreements.
[W]ith regard to awarding funds for technical assistance and training activities, a grant or cooperative agreement is typically the legally appropriate funding instrument, with a cooperative agreement allowing for COPS to have substantial involvement in the assistance/training content or agenda.
-We believe that grantee compliance could be improved by collecting more information from grantees and through requiring high-risk grantees to demonstrate that they understand key grant-related responsibilities.
In addition to the general government-wide clarifications and assurances, the COPS Office ensured that the COPS Hiring Recovery Program application contained specific certifications pertaining to the award requirements regarding the nonsupplanting of federal funds, retention of officer positions following the conclusion of federal funding, and payment of only entry-level salaries and fringe benefits for officers.
-We also observed that COPS could improve upon its ability to identify high-risk grantees by increasing the number of and providing more guidance to the components that participate in the grantee vetting process.
Every vetting list includes the contact information of a COPS staff member available to answer questions, and work closely with components on their re5ponses, and who can conduct further probing of the information provided, if necessary. In additi0n, COPS continues to add information to our website with up-t0-date and relevant materials concerning the vetting process. As a pan of this endeavor, COPS will be posting Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) pertaining to vetting on our website, which will provide further guidance on the vetting process to better inform components about this activity and the ramifications of their responses.
-COPS could improve its grant monitoring efforts by developing recurring and mandatory training programs for all grantees, especially those that may be at higher risk for compliance issues, and by using Internet-based methods to implement that training.
The COPS Office agrees with the [Office of Inspector General] that the use of the Internet is an efficient and cost effective means for implementing grantee training. As noted previously, in preparation for the COPS Hiring Recovery Program, COPS has awarded funding to establish a CHRP “eLearn Center” to deliver both grants management training and community’ policing training to grantee agencies.
-COPS also could improve grantee monitoring by increasing its information sharing with [Office of Justice Programs] and [Office on Violence Against Women], the other DOJ grant administering components.
[B]ecause the COPS Management System (CMS) utilized for award administration is not a web-based system, access to CMS is only available within the physical location of the COPS Office or via remote access through the Justice Secure Remote Access (JSRA) connection using a COPS-issued laptop computer. However, any and all grantee information within the system can be provided as customized reports to [OJP Office of Audit, Assessment, and Management] and [OJP Office of the Chief Financial Officer] upon request by either office, and such requests are processed on a routine and timely basis.
-We also believe that COPS grant program performance could be improved by tracking outputs related to the individual grant programs, and by providing grant recipients with assistance and guidance specific to the individual grant programs.
[T]hree performance measures specific to the Recovery Act have been created by the COPS Office and approved by [Office of Management and Budget]. These measures — the average community policing capacity of COPS Hiring Recovery Program grantees, the number of jobs created, and the number of jobs preserved — will be measured through quarterly progress reports assessing the number of new sworn officer jobs created and/or preserved, as well as through an annual survey that gauges the community policing capacity implementation rating of grantees.