President Biden’s rollout of the Comprehensive Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gun Crime and Ensure Public Safety in late June included additional guidance for three funding sources to help law enforcement agencies respond to increases in gun violence. The fact sheet highlighted some changes for Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funds (open now), increased funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) programs, and introduced clearer language around how American Rescue Plan funds can be used to support law enforcement response to an increase in gun violence associated with the pandemic.
The administration’s announcement noted, “This strategy will use the Rescue Plan’s historic funding levels and clear guidance to help state, local, territorial, and tribal governments get the money they need to put more police officers on the beat – with the resources, training, and accountability they need to engage in effective community policing.”
The fact sheet highlighted some changes for JAG funds, increased funding for COPS programs, and introduced clearer language around how American Rescue Plan funds can be used to support law enforcement response to an increase in gun violence associated with the pandemic.
ARP Funds and Gun Violence
Communities experiencing a surge in gun violence as a result of the pandemic may use the American Rescue Plan’s $350 billion in state and local funding for purposes such as:
- Hiring law enforcement officials. The guidance notes agencies can use funds not only to fill current open positions, but also to increase staffing above pre-pandemic levels. Agencies can also use the funds to pay overtime for efforts directly focused on advancing community policing strategies.
- Additional enforcement efforts. Agencies can use American Rescue Plan funds to reduce gun violence exacerbated by the pandemic, including prosecuting gun traffickers and rogue dealers. Collaborative federal/state/local efforts to identify and address gun trafficking channels are also eligible.
- Investing in technology and equipment. The fact sheet doesn’t provide specifics, but notes agencies can use funds to purchase technology and equipment that will aid them in more efficiently and effectively responding to a rise in in gun violence resulting from the pandemic.
Even if your community hasn’t experienced a rise in gun violence during the pandemic, ARP funds are available for law enforcement funding to reduce gun violence. Included in the fact sheet was a reference to the Treasury Department clarification that any community can use ARP funds for the above strategies up to the level of revenue loss the jurisdiction experienced during the pandemic. Communities can also use ARP funds to restore pre-pandemic staffing levels for law enforcement and courts.
Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program
JAG provides support to state and territory, local and tribal governments across a range of program areas, including crime prevention and education, law enforcement, prosecution, indigent defense, courts, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, technology improvement, crime victim and witness initiatives, and planning and evaluation. Community violence intervention programs are eligible uses of the funding.
In soliciting grant applications for this round of funding, the Justice Department is prioritizing solutions to address the backlog of cases created when courts at every level were forced to cancel or scale back proceedings due to COVID-19. Examples include technology that facilitates virtual outreach and appearances, enhancements to case management systems, tools to support diversion and alternatives to incarceration as part of the review of backlogged cases, and funding to retrofit courthouses to mitigate risks to staff.
Applications for the FY21 $276 million Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program are open now and are due on August 9.
COPS Hiring Program
The President is also seeking a $300 million increase for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring program in recent budget request. These funds will increase community policing and give law enforcement agencies the additional resources needed to keep their communities safe. This request will impact FY22 and does not apply to the current FY21 program.
Knowledge Is Key
The latest guidance from the Biden Administration identifies law enforcement funding to reduce gun violence as a key application of American Rescue Plan funds. It’s essential for law enforcement leaders to stay in the know about this and other developments in ARP guidance. In many communities, competition for funds will be stiff. Understanding exactly how funding matches up with your agency’s needs will be key to securing your share.