February 4, 2009 By Corey McKenna
The economic stimulus package being developed in Congress offers both challenges and opportunities for law enforcement agencies, an analysis by Galain Solutions indicates.
While the recession puts the squeeze on state budgets, one study indicates 63 percent of local police departments anticipate cutting their budgets, 44 percent of those surveyed believed crime was on the rise due to the economic crisis.
There are several funding sources available to help departments deal with this challenge, but they have to know what they want and be prepared to roll it out quickly. And that can be tricky, the study's author, Rick Wimberly, president of Galain Solutions, writes.
The House version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 includes a $79 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which contains $30 billion that could be spent on public safety at governors' discretion.
The bill contains another $4 billion specifically for the Byrne and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant programs which can be spent on developing technologies that emphasize crime prevention. According to Wimberly's analysis, 50 percent of COPS grants have been reserved for organizations serving populations of 150,000 or less. COPS grants are expected to be awarded 90 days after the passage of the stimulus bill.
And while the smaller states and communities will get significant funds and requirements for matching funds are likely to be waived, the influx of such a large amount of money and the requirement that it be spent quickly, along with strict oversight processes being predicted, state and local agencies will face challenges including managing the scale and scope of applications received and implementing projects in time.
Examples of technologies past COPS grants have funded include geospatial crime analysis tools, automated notification systems and computer-aided dispatch. Public safety communications networks could benefit from $2.8 billion allocated to broadband build-out as well.
Wimberly observes that local agencies will need to move quickly and creatively to ramp up hiring programs for police officers that have been scaled back in recent years.
Now is the time for agencies to draw up their grant proposals, even though the guidelines are not completely finalized, Wimberly noted. And prepare for increased oversight. Even though there will be pressure to move quickly, Washington will be looking to see that the money is spent intelligently. Plus, local procurement rules won't be waived just because the money is coming from the federal government, he said. And finally, all parties should expect intense competition for funds. "Credible stories and strong solutions will be at a premium," Wimberly advised. "It will be important for vendors to stick to fundamentals - good solutions, strong service, solid relationships with buyers, and more importantly, integrity."