oversight

Community Policing: Observations on the COPS Program Midway Through Program Implementation

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-10-28.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                          United States General Accounting Office

GAO                       Testimony
                          Before the Subcommittee on Crime, Committee on the
                          Judiciary, House of Representatives



For Release on Delivery
Expected at
9:30 a.m. EDT             COMMUNITY POLICING
Thursday
October 28, 1999


                          Observations on the COPS
                          Program Midway Through
                          Program Implementation
                          Statement of Richard M. Stana, Associate Director
                          Administration of Justice Issues
                          General Government Division




GAO/T-GGD-00-33
Summary

Community Policing: Observations on the
COPS Program Midway Through Program
Implementation
              The Public Safety Partnership and Community Policing Act of 1994 (Public
              Law 103-322) authorizes $8.8 billion to be used from fiscal years 1995 to
              2000 to enhance public safety. It has the goals of adding 100,000 officer
              positions, funded by grants, to the streets of communities nationwide and
              of promoting community policing. Among other things, the act required
              that half the grants go to law enforcement agencies serving populations of
              150,000 or less. The act also required that grantees not supplant state and
              local funding, but rather use the federal funds for additional law
              enforcement beyond what would have been available without a grant. The
              Attorney General created the Office of Community Oriented Policing
              Services (COPS) to administer community policing grants.

              At the end of fiscal year 1997—when the community policing grant
              program was midway through its 6-year authorization period—GAO
              reported on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) implementation of the act
                                                              1
              and progress toward achieving program goals . We found that grants were
              not targeted to law enforcement agencies on the basis of which agency had
              the greatest need for assistance, but rather to agencies that met COPS
              program criteria. Previous work had shown that overall, the higher the
              crime rate, the more likely a jurisdiction was to apply for a COPS grant.
              The primary reasons contacted jurisdictions chose not to apply for a grant
              were cost related. Specifically, these jurisdictions expressed uncertainty
              about being able to continue to offer funding after the grant expired and
              about their ability to provide the required 25-percent match.

              GAO reported that the COPS Office provided limited monitoring to assure
              compliance with the act during the period reviewed. Monitoring guidelines
              were not prepared, site visits and telephone monitoring did not
              systematically take place, and information on activities and
              accomplishments was not consistently collected or reviewed. COPS
              officials said they were taking steps to increase the level of monitoring.
              Monitoring grantee operations is important for assuring that program
              regulations pertaining to implementation, use of funds, and supplanting are
              adhered to.

              The majority of the 13,396 COPS grants awarded in fiscal years 1995 and
              1996 went to law enforcement agencies serving populations of fewer than
              50,000. Almost 50 percent of the grants were awarded to agencies serving
              populations of fewer than 10,000, and 83 percent of the grants were
              awarded to agencies serving populations of fewer than 50,000.

              1
               Community Policing: Issues Related to the Design, Operation, and Management of the Grant Program
              (GAO/GGD-97-167, September 3, 1997).




              Page 1                                                                        GAO/T-GGD-00-33
Community Policing: Observations on the COPS Program Midway Through Program
Implementation




Communities with populations of over 1 million were awarded less than 1
percent of the grants, although they were awarded over 23 percent of the
total grant dollars. 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. Special law enforcement agencies were awarded 329
community policing hiring grants in fiscal years 1995 and 1996—less than 3
percent of the total hiring grants awarded.

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. 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. The COPS Office counted in
this estimate new officers on the street as a result of hiring grants, as well
as existing officers who were redeployed to community policing as a result
of time savings achieved by other program grants. It also counted 2,000
positions funded by the Police Hiring Supplement Program, a Justice
component established before the COPS grant program.




Page 2                                                             GAO/T-GGD-00-33
 Statement

 Community Policing: Observations on the
 COPS Program Midway Through Program
 Implementation
                I am pleased to be here today to discuss the implementation of the
                Community Policing Act with special attention to statutory requirements
                for implementing the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)
                grants. The Community Policing Act authorized $8.8 billion to be used
                from fiscal years 1995 to 2000 to enhance public safety. Its goals are to add
                100,000 officer positions, funded by grants, to the streets of communities
                nationwide and to promote community policing.
                                                                                                      1
                This statement is based primarily on our September 3, 1997, report on the
                design, operation, and management of the COPS grant program. At that
                time, the COPS grant program was midway through its 6-year authorization
                period. Thus, the information contained in this statement should be
                considered as a status report at that time rather than a reflection of current
                operations. My statement makes the following points.

              • COPS grants were not targeted on the basis of greatest need for assistance.
                However, the higher the crime rate, the more likely a jurisdiction was to
                apply for a COPS grant.
              • COPS office grant monitoring was limited. Monitoring guidelines were not
                prepared, site visits and telephone monitoring did not systematically take
                place, and information on activities and accomplishments was not
                consistently collected or reviewed.
              • Small communities were awarded most COPS office grants, but large cities
                received larger awards. In accordance with the act, about half the funds
                were awarded to agencies serving populations less than 150,000.
              • As of June 1997, a total of 30,155 law enforcement positions funded by
                COPS grants were estimated by the COPS office to be on the street.

                Community policing is a philosophy under which local police departments
Background      develop strategies to address the causes of and reduce the fear of crime
                through problem solving tactics and community-police partnerships.
                Community policing emphasizes the importance of police-citizen
                partnerships and cooperation to control crime, maintain order, and
                improve the quality of life in communities.

                The enactment of the Public Safety Partnership and Community Policing
                            2
                Act of 1994, Title I of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act,
                established what officials described as the largest grant program ever
                administered by the Department of Justice (Justice). Under the
                1
                 Community Policing: Issues Related to the Design, Operation, and Management of the Grant Program
                (GAO/GGD-97-167, September 3, 1997).
                2
                    Public Law 103-322.




                Page 3                                                                        GAO/T-GGD-00-33
                       Statement
                       Community Policing: Observations on the COPS Program Midway Through Program
                       Implementation




                       Community Policing Act, the Attorney General had discretion to decide
                       which Justice component would administer community policing grants.
                       Justice officials believed that a new, efficient customer-oriented
                       organization was needed to process the record number of grants. The
                       result was the creation of the new Office of Community Oriented Policing
                       Services (COPS).

                       The Community Policing Act requires that grantees contribute 25 percent
                       of the costs of the program, project, or activity funded by the grant, unless
                       the Attorney General waives the matching requirement. According to
                       Justice officials, the basis for waiver of the matching requirements is
                       extraordinary local fiscal hardship. The act also requires that grants be
                       used to supplement, not supplant, state and local funds. To prevent
                       supplanting, grantees must devote resources to law enforcement beyond
                       those resources that would have been available without a COPS grant. In
                       general, grantees are expected to use the hiring grants to increase the
                       number of funded sworn officers above the number on board in October
                       1994, when the program began. Grantees are required to have plans to
                       assume a progressively larger share of the cost over time, looking toward
                       keeping the increased number of officers by using state and local funds
                       after the expiration of the federal grant program at the end of fiscal year
                       2000.

                       The Community Policing Act does not target grants to law enforcement
COPS Grants Not        agencies on the basis of which agency has the greatest need for assistance,
Targeted to Specific   but rather to agencies that meet COPS program criteria. In one of our
                                           3
Law Enforcement        previous reports, among other things, we reviewed alternative strategies
                       for targeting grants. We noted that federal grants have been established to
Agencies               achieve a variety of goals. For example, if the desired goal is to target
                       fiscal relief to areas experiencing greater fiscal stress, grant allocation
                       formulas could be changed to include a combination of factors that
                       allocate a larger share of federal aid to those states with relatively greater
                       program needs and fewer resources.
                                                                                    4
                       We noted in our 1995 Community Policing report that, overall, the higher
                       the crime rate, the more likely a jurisdiction was to apply for a COPS grant.
                       In addition, the primary reasons jurisdictions we contacted chose not to
                       apply for COPS grants were cost related. Specifically, these jurisdictions

                       3
                       Federal Grants: Design Improvements Could Help Federal Resources Go Further (GAO/AIMD-97-7,
                       Dec. 18, 1996).
                       4
                       Community Policing: Information on the “COPS on the Beat” Grant Programs (GAO/GGD-96-4,
                       October 25, 1995.




                       Page 4                                                                     GAO/T-GGD-00-33
                    Statement
                    Community Policing: Observations on the COPS Program Midway Through Program
                    Implementation




                    expressed uncertainty about being able to continue officer funding after
                    the grant expired and about their ability to provide the required 25-percent
                    match. However, community groups and local government representatives
                    we interviewed generally supported community policing in their
                    neighborhoods.

                    Monitoring is an important tool for Justice to use in ensuring that law
COPS Office Grant   enforcement jurisdictions funded by COPS grants comply with federal
Monitoring Was      program requirements. The Community Policing Act requires that each
Limited             COPS Office program, project, or activity contain a monitoring component
                    developed pursuant to guidelines established by the Attorney General. In
                    addition, the COPS program regulations specify that each grant is to
                    contain a monitoring component, including periodic financial and
                    programmatic reporting and, in appropriate circumstances, on-site
                    reviews. The regulations state that the guidelines for monitoring are to be
                    issued by the COPS Office.

                    COPS Office grant-monitoring activities during the first 2-1/2 years of the
                    program were limited. Final COPS Office monitoring guidance had not
                    been issued as of June 1997. Information on activities and
                    accomplishments for COPS-funded programs was not consistently
                    collected or reviewed. Site visits and telephone monitoring by grant
                    advisers did not systematically take place.

                    COPS Office officials said that monitoring efforts were limited due to a
                    lack of grant adviser staff and an early program focus on processing
                    applications to get officers on the street. According to a COPS Office
                    official, as of July 1997, the COPS Office had about 155 total staff
                    positions, up from about 130 positions that it had when the office was
                    established. Seventy of these positions were for grant administration,
                    including processing grant applications, responding to questions from
                    grantees, and monitoring grantee performance. The remaining positions
                    were for staff who worked in various other areas, including training;
                    technical assistance; administration; and public, intergovernmental, and
                    congressional liaison.

                    According to the COPS Office, in January 1997, it began taking steps to
                    increase the level of its monitoring. It developed monitoring guidelines,
                    revised reporting forms, piloted on-site monitoring visits, and initiated
                    telephone monitoring of grantees’ activities.

                    As of July 1997, a COPS Office official said that the office had funding
                    authorization to increase its staff to 186 positions, and it was in the



                    Page 5                                                            GAO/T-GGD-00-33
Statement
Community Policing: Observations on the COPS Program Midway Through Program
Implementation




process of hiring up to this level. In commenting on our draft report, COPS
officials also noted that they were recruiting for more than 30 staff
positions in a new monitoring component to be exclusively devoted to
overseeing grant compliance activities.

COPS Office officials also said that some efforts were under way to review
compliance with requirements of the Community Policing Act that grants
                                                                     5
be used to supplement, not supplant, local funding. In previous work, we
reported that enforcing such provisions of grant programs was difficult for
federal agencies due to problems in ascertaining state and local spending
intentions. According to the COPS Office Assistant Director of Grant
Administration, the COPS Office’s approach to achieving compliance with
the nonsupplantation provision was to receive accounts of potential
violations from grantees or other sources and then to work with grantees
to bring them into compliance, not to abruptly terminate grants or
otherwise penalize grantees. COPS Office grant advisers attempted to
work with grantees to develop mutually acceptable plans for corrective
actions.
                                                       6
Also, in our 1997 report on grant design, our synthesis of literature on the
fiscal impact of grants suggested that each additional federal grant dollar
resulted in about 40 cents of added spending on the aided activity. This
means that the fiscal impact of the remaining 60 cents was to free up state
or local funds that otherwise would have been spent on that activity for
                             7
other programs or tax relief. In April 1997, COPS Office officials said that
they were discussing ways to encourage grantees to sustain hiring levels
achieved under the grants, in light of the language of the Community
Policing Act regarding the continuation of these increased hiring levels
after the conclusion of federal support.




5
 Proposed Changes in Federal Matching and Maintenance of Effort Requirements for State and Local
Governments (GAO/GGD-81-7, Dec. 23, 1980).
6
    GAO/GGD-97-167.
7
 The studies we reviewed generally looked at the fiscal impact of grants in the aggregate or for broad
categories of grants. Like the COPS grant, some of the grants studied incorporated nonsupplant
requirements. Others did not incorporate such requirements.




Page 6                                                                             GAO/T-GGD-00-33
                      Statement
                      Community Policing: Observations on the COPS Program Midway Through Program
                      Implementation




                      Law enforcement agencies in small communities were awarded most of
Small Communities     the COPS grants for fiscal years 1995 and 1996. Our work showed that
Were Awarded Most     6,588 grants—49 percent of the total 13,396 grants awarded—were
COPS Office Grants,   awarded to law enforcement agencies serving communities with
                      populations of fewer than 10,000. Eighty-three percent—11,173 grants—of
but Large Cities      the total grants awarded went to agencies serving populations of fewer
Received Larger       than 50,000.
Awards
                      Large cities—with populations of over 1 million—were awarded about 1
                      percent of the grants, but these grants made up over 23 percent—about
                      $612 million—of the total grant dollars awarded. 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.

                      In commenting on our draft report, the COPS Office noted that these
                      distributions were not surprising given that the vast majority of police
                      departments nationwide are also relatively small. The COPS Office also
                      noted that the Community Policing Act requires that the level of assistance
                      given to large and small agencies be equal.

                      Of the grants awarded in fiscal years 1995 and 1996, special law
                      enforcement agencies, such as those serving Native American
                      communities, universities and colleges, and mass transit passengers, were
                      awarded 329 hiring grants. This number was less than 3 percent of the
                      11,434 hiring grants awarded during the 2-year period.

                      As of the end of fiscal year 1996, after 2 years of operation, the COPS
                      Office had issued award letters to 8,803 communities for 13,396 grants
                      totaling about $2.6 billion. Eighty-six percent of these grant dollars were to
                      be used to hire additional law enforcement officers. Other grant funds
                      were to be used to buy new technology and equipment; hire support
                      personnel; and/or pay law enforcement officers overtime, train officers in
                      community policing, and develop innovative prevention programs,
                      including domestic violence prevention, youth firearms reduction, and
                      antigang initiatives.




                      Page 7                                                            GAO/T-GGD-00-33
                         Statement
                         Community Policing: Observations on the COPS Program Midway Through Program
                         Implementation




                         As of June 1997, a total of 30,155 law enforcement officer positions funded
New Officers and         by COPS grants were estimated by the COPS Office to be on the street.
Redeployments to         COPS Office estimates of the numbers of new community policing officers
Community Policing       on the street were based on three funding sources: (1) officers on board as
                         a result of COPS hiring grants; (2) officers redeployed to community
Count Toward the Goal    policing as a result of time savings achieved through technology and
of 100,000 New           equipment purchases, hiring of civilian personnel, and/or law enforcement
Officers on the Street   officers’ overtime; and (3) officers funded under the Police Hiring
                                                 8
                         Supplement Program, which was in place before the COPS grant program.

                         According to COPS Office officials, the office’s first systematic attempt to
                         estimate the progress toward the goal of 100,000 new community policing
                         officers on the street was a telephone survey of grantees done between
                         September and December, 1996. COPS Office staff contacted 8,360
                         grantees to inquire about their progress in hiring officers and getting them
                         on the street.

                         According to a COPS Office official, a follow-up survey, which estimated
                         30,155 law enforcement officer positions to be on the street, was done
                         between late March and June, 1997. The official said that this survey was
                         contracted out because the earlier in-house survey had been extremely
                         time consuming. The official said that, as of May 1997, the office was in the
                         process of selecting a contractor to do three additional surveys during
                         fiscal year 1998.

                         Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. Again, I wish to
                         emphasize that my statement is based primarily on a report issued at about
                         the mid-point of the COPS program implementation, and that facts and
                         circumstances relating to the program would likely have changed since
                         then. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you or other
                         members of the Subcommittee may have.

                         Contacts and Acknowledgment
                         For future contacts regarding this testimony, please contact Richard M.
                         Stana at (202) 512-8777. Individuals making key contributions to this
                         testimony included Weldon McPhail and Dennise R. Stickley.




                         8
                          The COPS Office counted toward the 100,000-officers goal, 2,000 positions funded under the Police
                         Hiring Supplement Program, which was administered by a Justice component before the COPS grant
                         program was established. An official said that a policy decision had been made early in the
                         establishment of the COPS Office to include these positions in the count.




                         Page 8                                                                          GAO/T-GGD-00-33
Page 9   GAO/T-GGD-00-33
Page 10   GAO/T-GGD-00-33
Page 11   GAO/T-GGD-00-33
Ordering Information

The first copy of each GAO report and testimony is free.
Additional copies are $2 each. Orders should be sent to the
following address, accompanied by a check or money order made
out to the Superintendent of Documents, when necessary. VISA
and MasterCard credit cards are accepted, also. Orders for 100 or
more copies to be mailed to a single address are discounted 25
percent.

Order by mail:

U.S. General Accounting Office
P.O. Box 37050
Washington, DC 20013

or visit:

Room 1100
700 4th St. NW (corner of 4th and G Sts. NW)
U.S. General Accounting Office
Washington, DC

Orders may also be placed by calling (202) 512-6000 or by using
fax number (202) 512-6061, or TDD (202) 512-2537.

Each day, GAO issues a list of newly available reports and
testimony. To receive facsimile copies of the daily list or any list
from the past 30 days, please call (202) 512-6000 using a touch-
tone phone. A recorded menu will provide information on how to
obtain these lists.

For information on how to access GAO reports on the INTERNET,
send e-mail message with “info” in the body to:

info@www.gao.gov

or visit GAO’s World Wide Web Home Page at:

http://www.gao.gov
United States                       Bulk Rate
General Accounting Office      Postage & Fees Paid
Washington, D.C. 20548-0001           GAO
                                Permit No. G100
Official Business
Penalty for Private Use $300

Address Correction Requested




(182085)