Billion Dollar COPS Technology Grant Program Dies

By IPVM Team, Published Aug 01, 2013, 12:00am EDT (Info+)

Grants seem to power almost every public surveillance system deployed in the past decade. Need a hundred thousand? No problem. Get a government grant. But now one of the most well-known programs is over. We talked to the U.S. Department of Justice about what happened to the COPS Technology Grant program and other grants being used to fund surveillance in its absence.

Funding Gone

The last grants for the the U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) technology program have been cleared and the program is officially over, at least until a lawmaker decides it is worth funding again.

The program, provided more than $2.8 billion in grants, to more than 1,400 agencies to upgrade their technology since around 2001. “This was one of our stronger programs and it covered a broad range of requests,” says COPS spokesman Corey Ray.

The *******

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Comments (13)

Carlton, informative!

Does anyone know other major grant programs for surveillance systems? Losing a few hundred million annually is a big hit. I am curious how police departments, cities, etc., are compensating.

If an agency can show they're going to use the money to prevent terrorism, they can get a DHS preparedness grant, but in the past a lot of these grants end up going mainly to big cities.

A lot of grants for anything end up going to bigger municipalities, just because they usually are more prepared to write them or can afford to hire good grant writers. Once they've been through the process, they also find it easier to keep getting money, because they know what worked the first time.

A lot of the smaller towns I know have done things with state funds, and a couple have pulled funds from foundations set up for the purpose.

Let me clarify that: foundations not necessarily set up specifically for surveillance systems, but set up as grant money for the town, more or less. I know one town of about 5000 people got $250k from something like this, plus some state matching funds.

What I would like to see is some of the larger firms start to give out products that are tried and tested to work in the most practicle situations law enforcment need (non fed) at the state and most importantly city level and help bring some of the Tech to the eyes and ears of the public thus driving sales of the product that they just saw a officer deploy to help catch a criminal. it would be a gifting to the department and not a huge monetary investment with potiential of sales incoming from local sources that see and like the product. but the likely hood of that happening is slim to nill with this simple fact its all about the $$$$$$$

hmmm..... earmarked grants fund new police hires. grants run out. do these new LE hires get terminated when earmarked grants run out? nope. ...so, where do new funding sources come from to keep these LE 'grant-funded' hires? Red Light Camera Programs (for citizen safety) Speed Enforcement Cameras (for citizen safety) LPR Camera Deployments (for citizen safety)

Marty, may I recommend a Google search for 'police layoffs'?

Secondly, it begs the question: What is going to happen to this billion dollar of granted technology as it ages? Who is going to pay to maintain it?

I just read the top 10 links from that Google search and not one mentions the loss of COPS funding as the cause of these LE layoffs (including the link from PoliceMag.com which included it's own list, and COPS funding is not mentioned in any of those either).

In almost every case, the mass layoffs of LE (and fire) personnel is being driven by city budget slashing fueled by massive drop in taxation revenue.

I do, however, agree that the technology that has been funded by these grants is failing every day (without funds to maintain it).

That said, if the technology itself is field-proven to help LE do its job better, they will find funding for it (using the methods above, claiming it is for 'safety', and that the technology itself helps to reduce [paid] manpower).

The technology that doesn't provide much value (in helping them do their jobs better) but might have been 'cool' - when spending someone elses money - falls to the wayside... and maybe this is as it should be.

Certainly local budget cuts are impacting it. However, unlike 5 or 10 years ago, the ability to get a federal grant to compensate has declined significantly.

As you recall from reviewing the data DOJ provided us, 2013 COPS funding for law enforcement staff has fallen ~40% (specifically the UHP program). However, funding to the technology program has been entirely eliminated already. If COPS does not continue in 2014, which it appears it will, another nearly $200 million will disappear relative to previous grants for hiring LEOs. That amount will certainly put even more pressure to layoff officers.

John,

I know that Target Corporation has a Law Enforcement Grant Program. It will not fund new hires, but they will fund technology. You may want to look into Target Corporation. You would be impressed by what they do. They have in addition to their grant program for L.E. they have two forensics labs that is available to law enforcement. They have a L.E. equipment loaner program for L.E. agencies conducting investigations related to retail crime, (organized retail crime). They will event set up surveillance teams of Target employees to assist in the stake outs. I heard a presentation a few years ago, and a security meeting give by some target representatives. I was invited by a friend who works at Target.

I was impressed.

There is what police chiefs are now referring to as the "new normal".

Budget cuts, officer layoffs, a hold on all discretionary expenses (to include new technologies & training) characterizes what chiefs are dealing with now. Layoffs are also common as evidenced in some cities (i.e. Camden NJ). Grant managers in police departments relied heavily upon the various COPS Technology and Hiring grants since approximately 1994. Now that these have dried up, they are primarily using very limited state/local grant opportunities or the "JAG Grants" which are still available from the Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance. Other comments already touched upon foundations and some limited DHS funds which become available. However, DHS funds are often overseen by a State designated administrator so locals have limited input on how the funds are spent.

@ Marty

I'm not sure things would work out like you're saying. The kind of gear that police use us usualy way outside the useful parameters of the average user. Take police laptops. 70% or so of the cars in the US have Panasonic Toughbooks. Drop them, kick them, soak them, freeze them, heat them, they'll hold up. Average lifespan of a deployed Toughbook, taking all the beating of police use, running 24 hours a day, is 7 years. I can't get a computer on my desk to last that long. So, it stands to reason that the general public would be clamoring to buy Toughbooks, right? They would, but a fully kitted out Toughbook can go $5500. So, people will buy the same conceptual item, a laptop, but they'll buy it a lot cheaper.

A lot of PDs use high end AR-15 rifles - Colt, Sig Sauer, Noveske, Bushmaster, etc. $1500 and up (way up). Many civilians want an AR15, so they will buy a DPMS for $700.

Hal,

Not to be a dick... but I'm not sure I follow your referencing. LEOs use expensive gear...? I wouldn't disagree with that.

I just don't get what you mean by it not working out as I was saying is all.... : )

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