What's going on with federal funding for law enforcement grants?

While not much is finalized at this point, many important issues that will impact law enforcement funding need to be looked at

One of the constants, when it comes to grants, is change. That’s especially true with each new Presidential election when priorities for federal funds are adjusted and realigned, based on the goals of a new administration. This time is no different, although it may be somewhat more complicated as we attempt to understand the details.

While not much is finalized at this point, many important issues that will impact law enforcement funding need to be looked at.

Federal budget cuts

With a specified goal of cutting federal spending and reducing the overall budget, several important programs that directly impact law enforcement have been identified as targets for potential cuts. This includes the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which recently awarded more than $115 million to local jurisdictions to hire more police officers. Another program mentioned for potential cutting is the Office of Violence Against Women that provides funds to address domestic violence and sexual assault, a typically reliable and important source of funds for law enforcement agencies.

Whether or not these programs will be continued remains to be seen, but it’s important to keep yourself educated on the status of the federal funding.

Sanctuary cities

Perhaps the most complicated issue being talked about involves sanctuary cities. To be clear, “sanctuary city” is a term that may actually refer to a city, a county or even an entire state that has decided to limit local law enforcement from complying with federal laws regarding the deportation of illegal immigrants.

An executive order signed in January states that sanctuary cities “are not eligible to receive federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes.” And that may be where a lot of confusion begins because, while that actually sounds good, there are real issues surrounding it.

Some states, in an effort to save their own resources of federal funding, are passing legislation that says they are limiting state funding to any jurisdiction in the state that acts as a sanctuary city. This occurred in Texas. Texas led the way with this legislation, but the state hit a wall due to objections from many sides. Particularly, legislators are unwilling to punish their police agencies for determining that adhering to the immigration orders was detrimental to their ability to keep their communities safe.

Many other states are in the process of debating the merits of this step, including Pennsylvania.  But other states, for example New Jersey, are actually discussing protecting sanctuary cities from any financial “hits” brought on by the new federal orders.

Confused? Of course you are. This is an area that seems to change on a daily basis.

Federal funding is very large budget resource for most law enforcement agencies. Understanding how it impacts your agency is an important part of any grant manager’s job. These changes in federal grant funding will probably take up a lot more of your time over the next few months.

Why changes occur

To put things into perspective, however, it should be noted that it’s not just when a new administration takes over that federal funding changes.

For instance, just after 9/11 federal funding for homeland security soared in response. Jurisdictions deemed essential to the nation’s safety from potential attacks were at the top of the list for federal money, at times to the detriment of basic police-related needs.

When the country was trying to pull out of the last recession, millions of dollars in federal funds were made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for a wide variety of uses including job creation and infrastructure improvements. And, ARRA included a large amount of additional funding for public safety.

A good grant manager keeps an eye on “what’s going on” grant-wise. This year, it seems to be more important than ever as much remains in a state of flux.

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