Police Get Back on the Beat With 'COPS MORE' Funding

The Clinton administration's plan to put 100,000 additional police officers on U.S. streets by 2000 is generating some healthy technology funding opportunities for local law enforcement agencies. That's because a chunk of the funds from the Justice Department's $1 billion Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program is being earmarked for projects to move existing police staff out from behind precinct desks and back on the beat.

The funds -- $223 million in 1996 and $450 million in 1995 -- were awarded under the COPS Making Officer Redeployment Effective (MORE) program for projects designed to make police departments more efficient.

"Congress has recognized through the input of a number of large cities that [only a few] of those cities want to increase their number of police officers," said David Hayselip, COPS MORE assistant director of programming, policy, support and evaluation. "Instead, they are looking to modernize technology in order to make their sworn officers engaged in clerical tasks [to be] engaged in community policing."

Examples of such technology programs include automated booking systems, geographic information systems (GIS) for dispatching and a wealth of laptop and mobile-computing applications. "It has been fascinating for us to watch the implementation of technology through this program," Hayselip said. "We have found that technology is a work force multiplier."

The experience gained under COPS MORE also can be a technology benchmark for low-tech police departments. "The COPS program is urgent and essential because what you have is an explosion of technology in the world and police departments constrained in terms of their budgets and also because they are responders in the 9-1-1 sense of the word," said John Firman, director of research for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). "They don't have time to wander around looking at technology."

The Buffalo Police Department in New York is using COPS MORE funds for an ongoing records-management initiative. "We have made improvements in efficiency because of the technology, which has allowed us to devote more officer time back to the community," said police commissioner Richard Kerlikowske. Buffalo also will use federal funding to upgrade its computer-aided dispatch system and recently made an award to Motorola Corp. for the mobile units involved in that upgrade.

In applying for COPS MORE grants, police departments must put up 25 percent of the value of the project to receive the balance via federal matching grants. In Buffalo, Kerlikowske drew on the department's asset-forfeiture fund to put up the required 25 percent. Other monies suitable as matching funds include state funds, private funds or Housing and Community Development Act funds garnered from federal housing programs.

The city of El Paso, Texas, is seeking COPS MORE funds for a GIS that incorporates Global Positioning System technology. Like Buffalo, El Paso tapped its asset-forfeiture fund to meet its COPS MORE match.

Information systems manager Walt Townsend offered advice to those preparing COPS MORE grant applications: "You don't want to define objects too narrowly," he said. "You need to be able to see the overall impact that something has in reducing man-hours."

To make the grant program easier for police departments, the COPS MORE office recently introduced some simplifications to the process.

--Jennifer Jones is a staff writer for civic.com. She can be reached at jjones@fcw.com.

More Money for COPS MORE

The U.S. Senate has passed a measure to double funding levels for the COPS MORE program, which last year was limited to 10 percent of the total COPS funding. Now lawmakers are debating a bill that would restore that figure to its original 20 percent.

"Last year we could not give out as many grants under the COPS MORE program, and it is one of our more popular programs," said a DOJ spokeswoman. In the 1996 fiscal year the COPS MORE office distributed $223 million to more than 1,300 local law enforcement agencies. Those figures were down dramatically from 1995 spending levels, when COPS MORE was funded at 20 percent. In that year, more than 1,400 local entities received $450 million in grant money.

Tied to the grant levels is an estimate of the number of the full-time equivalents (FTEs) that can be attributed to a COPS MORE grant. The estimates are derived by calculating the work force time that programs such as mobile computing save a local police force. That time is then translated into FTEs, said the COPS spokeswoman. For instance, in 1996, $223 million in grants translated into 9,100 FTEs. In the previous year, COPS MORE was estimated to have provided the equivalent of 13,800 officers.

Pending a final congressional decision on funding levels, the COPS MORE program office has not set any application deadline for money to be distributed in fiscal year 1998. A Senate Judiciary source said that the Senate measure to increase funding was met with bipartisan support, and that he was "hopeful" that the language would be adopted in an upcoming conference report.

DOJ's COPS program is located at www.usdoj.gov/cops.

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