Variety of Grants Available to Help Agencies with Technology Needs
Thursday, February 15, 2018 | Comments
Both technology-focused and nontechnology-focused grants can help local law enforcement agencies acquire or improve their technology, including First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) services, with the right planning and approach.

“A lot of them don’t say technology in the name of the grant, but they’re what we call technology-friendly grants in that they can include a significant amount of technology if you as the applicant decide that a technology-rich or technology-empowered program is the way you want to go forward to achieve the objectives of the grant,” said Michael Paddock, CEO of Grants Office, during a webinar hosted by the National Sheriff’s Association (NSA).

One of the keys to a successful grant application is focusing on the goals and outcomes of the proposed project instead of the product or technology, said Ashley Schultz, a grants development consultant for Grants Office.

“It’s the project that gets funded, not the product,” Schultz said.

The technology shouldn’t be the main purpose of the grant but a means to achieving specific goals or addressing specific needs of the law enforcement agency,” Schultz said. For a strong grant application, she suggested targeting a specific crime or geographic area in the community.

For example, the Phoenix Police Department bought body-worn cameras for its patrol officers using grant funding. The department assigned the cameras to officers in neighborhoods that had high rates of sexual and domestic violence. The cameras were used for more than sexual and domestic violence calls, but the focus provided the police department with data that showed the program was achieving a specific outcome to address sexual and domestic violence, Schultz said.

In another example, the Henderson (Nevada) Police Department determined that there was an increased number of stolen items appearing on quick trading websites such as Craigslist and realized that its officers were spending a lot of time following leads on those websites.

The agency applied for a grant and partnered with the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) to create a data-mining tool that could collect and analyze data from those sites and identify stolen items for sale.

Many grants, whether they’re specifically related to technology or not, could help agencies with costs related to FirstNet services, Paddock said.

For example, an agency could leverage existing grant programs focused on criminal justice, traffic security or homeland security preparedness as a way to improve communications in those areas, Paddock said. He also suggested looking at grants such as the Department of Agriculture’s (DOA) rural broadband grants, which are focused on improving broadband coverage in rural areas across the country.

As with other technology, the key in applying to use some grant funding for FirstNet services or related costs, such as training, is again to focus on how those services will assist the agency in achieving specific goals or outcomes, Paddock said.

Agencies can look toward a variety of different grant opportunities to help fund technology. Many of the major law enforcement grant funding opportunities come from either the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the Department of Justice (DOJ), Paddock and Schultz said.

About half of the DHS grant funding generally goes to high-density, high-threat urban areas, through programs such as the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), Paddock said.

For agencies not in those particular urban areas, state homeland security grants are an option. The money comes from the federal government, but is distributed by the states so deadline, matching fund requirements and other details are determined by the states, Paddock said.

DOJ grants mainly come from three of its offices — the BJA, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

The BJA’s Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) are the DOJ’s largest provider of law enforcement grant funding, distributing more than $260 million per year, Schultz said.

Because the JAG program supports a variety of activities from basic law enforcement to corrections to technology improvement programs, the funds can be used on many different types of equipment, Schultz said.

Last year, the JAG program specifically called out items such as body-worn cameras, storage and policy development as priority areas for funding, Schultz said. “I will be very curious to see if that funding priority comes around again,” she said.

JAG funding is determined by a formula that takes into account population and Part 1 violent crime statistics. Agencies eligible to receive more than $10,000 in funding receive their grant funding directly from DOJ, and the anticipated application deadline will likely be sometime in June, Schultz said.

For agencies eligible for less than $10,000 funding, generally smaller agencies, the funding is distributed through states, and those agencies must apply to their state for funding. Funding priorities and deadlines generally vary from state to state, Schultz said.

Schultz highlighted the Improving Criminal Justice Response to Sexual Violence and Reduce Sexual Violence on Campuses grants from the OVW as potentially technology-friendly grants.

Both grants are focused on bringing together agencies such as law enforcement, courts, nonprofit organizations, and universities and their staff to collaborate in solving issues related to sexual violence.

There is a variety of potential technology that could help support the goals and objectives of those particular grants, Schultz said. For example, under the Improving Criminal Justice Response to Sexual Violence grant, a police department could use some of the funding to improve or expand its infrastructure so that it could more easily or efficiently share large amounts of data with a local prosecutor’s office.

Both grants have quite a few moving parts because they require bringing together disparate groups to collaborate. The grants are due soon, at the end of February and in mid-March, so Schultz suggested that agencies interested in the grants that have not planned for them focus on the 2019 grant cycle to ensure that they have a foundation for collaboration for their grant application.

Grants such as the COPS Office Anti-Heroin Task Force and Anti-Methamphetamine programs, which provide funds for agencies to investigate and combat activity related to the manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs, can also be used to leverage technology, Paddock said. For example, an agency might use a portion of the funding to invest in GPS technology to help track potential illegal activity.

Grants such as the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Smart Policing Initiative (SPI), which Phoenix and Henderson used for their projects, and the Technology Innovation for Public Safety (TIPS) are more directly focused on technology than some of the other grants, Schultz said. The SPI focuses on innovative and cost-effective solutions to address local crime and requires that grantees partner with a research partner to evaluate the effects of the solution, Schultz said.

The TIPS program is focused on strategic information between agencies to address specific problems related to fighting crime. Because of the nature of the program, the grant funds can generally be used on a variety of technology that promotes collaboration between different agencies.

Paddock and Schultz also encouraged law enforcement agencies to look at grant opportunities outside of the DHS and DOJ from organizations such as the Department of Transportation (DOT), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the E9-1-1 State Grant Program. All of those programs offer opportunities for partnerships that can include technology, Schultz said.

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