DOJ exec urges creative funding for cops

Office of Justice Programs

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State and local law enforcement agencies that need money won't get much more through the usual federal grants, but thinking creatively can turn up other funding sources, a Justice Department official said.

The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) — a resource for funding, information and expertise for law enforcement agencies — has several programs to assist cities and states, but direct grants appear to be hit hard in the fiscal 2004 budget, said Deborah Daniels, assistant attorney general for OJP. She was speaking Jan. 21 at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Congress still has not passed the appropriations bill that includes the Justice budget, but the most recent version being discussed cuts local law enforcement block grants from $400 million to approximately $225 million. OJP officials are working to make sure that as much of the remaining money goes directly to local agencies, but grants go through the states first, so "that will be a problem this year" for cities, Daniels said.

However, the Homeland Security Department's Office of Domestic Programs also has money for grants to states and local agencies. The law states almost $500 million of that funding must go to counterterrorism efforts rather than general first responder initiatives, but "if you think creatively and strategically, there is an opportunity to make a significant difference in your community" with DHS grants, Daniels said.

One of the programs that OJP has planned for this year is an initiative to increase the resources and technology available for DNA processing. The agency likely will receive about $100 million for that program instead of the $233 million requested, but "this is a tremendous opportunity to lift all boats in the DNA area," Daniels said.

The program includes research into making testing easier, faster and cheaper to cut down on the "tremendous backlogs," and developing a better database at Justice to store and access test results "so we can respond to your queries in seconds or minutes instead of hours, days, weeks," she said.

The office will also continue work on the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative and the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan, particularly to make sure that state and local agencies are able to upgrade or enhance existing technology in order to reach interoperability.

"This will essentially go a long way toward modernizing the ability of your departments to respond to traditional law enforcement as well as homeland security," Daniels said.

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