Community Policing:

Issues Related to the Design, Operation, and Management of the Grant Program

GGD-97-167: Published: Sep 3, 1997. Publicly Released: Sep 3, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Justice Office of Community Policing Services (COPS) grant program, focusing on: (1) Justice's implementation of the Community Policing Act with special attention to statutory requirements for implementing the COPS grants; (2) how COPS monitored the use of grants it awarded; (3) the distribution of COPS grants nationwide by population size of jurisdiction served, by type of grant, and by state; (4) how law enforcement agencies used grants under the COPS Making Officer Redeployment Effective (MORE) grant program; (5) the process the COPS office used to calculate the number of officers on the street; and (6) the funding distributions and uses of COPS hiring grants by special law enforcement agencies.

GAO noted that: (1) under the Community Policing Act, grants are generally available to any law enforcement agency that can demonstrate a public safety need; demonstrate an inability to address the need without a grant; and, in most instances, contribute a 25-percent match of the federal share of the grant; (2) to achieve the goal of increasing the number of community policing officers, the law required that grants be used to supplement, not supplant, state and local funds; (3) the COPS Office provided limited monitoring of the grants during the period GAO reviewed; however, the office was taking steps to increase its level of monitoring; (4) about 50 percent of the grant funds were awarded to law enforcement agencies serving populations of 150,000 or less, and about 50 percent of the grant funds were awarded to law enforcement agencies serving populations exceeding 150,000, as the Community Policing Act required; (5) about $286 million, or 11 percent of the total grant dollars awarded in fiscal years (FY) 1995 and 1996, were awarded under the MORE grant program; (6) according to the results of a survey GAO did of a representative national sample of those receiving grants under the COPS MORE grant program in FY 1995 and 1996, grantees had spent an estimated $90.1 million, or a little less than one-third of the funds they were awarded; (7) they spent about 61 percent of these funds to hire civilian personnel, about 31 percent to purchase technology or equipment, and about 8 percent on overtime payments for law enforcement officers; (8) the distributions of MORE program grant expenditures were heavily influenced by the expenditures of the New York City Police Department, which spent about one-half of all the MORE program grant funds expended nationwide; (9) to calculate its progress toward achieving the goal of 100,000 new community policing officers on the street as a result of its grants, the COPS Office did telephone surveys of grantees; (10) as of June 1997, the COPS Office estimated that a total of 30,155 law enforcement officer positions funded by COPS grants were on the street; (11) according to the results of GAO's review of COPS Office files, special law enforcement agencies were awarded 329 community policing hiring grants in FY 1995 and 1996--less than 3 percent of the total hiring grants awarded; and (12) special agency grantees applied most frequently to use officers hired with the COPS funds to write strategic plans, work with community groups, and provide community policing training to officers and citizens.

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