In 1994, the President pledged to put 100,000 additional police officers on America's streets to promote community participation in the fight against crime. He subsequently signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (Crime Act), authorizing the Attorney General to implement over six years an $8.8 billion grant program for state and local law enforcement agencies to hire or redeploy 100,000 additional officers to perform community policing.
The Attorney General established the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) to administer the grant programs and to advance community policing across the country. Management of the COPS grants entails both program and financial management. The COPS office is responsible for: (1) developing and announcing grant programs, (2) monitoring programmatic issues related to grants, (3) receiving and reviewing applications, and (4) deciding which grants to award. The Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is responsible for financial management of the COPS program and is charged with: (1) disbursing federal funds to grantees, (2) providing financial management assistance after COPS has made an award, (3) reviewing pre-award and post-award financial activity, (4) reviewing and approving grant budgets, and (5) financial monitoring of COPS awards.
In order to meet the President's goal of putting 100,000 additional police officers on the street, COPS developed six primary hiring and redeployment grant programs for state and local law enforcement agencies. Hiring grants fund the hiring of additional police officers and generally last for three years. Redeployment grants are generally one-year grants and fund the costs of equipment and technology, and support resources (including civilian personnel) to free existing officers from administrative duties and redeploy them to the streets. At the end of the grant period, the state or local entity is expected to continue funding the new positions or continue the time savings that resulted from the equipment or technology purchases using its own funds.
According to COPS, as of February 1999, COPS and OJP had awarded approximately $5 billion in grants under the six programs to fund the hiring or redeployment of more than 92,000 officers, of which 50,139 officers had been hired and deployed to the streets. COPS obtains its "on the street" officer count by periodically contacting grantees by telephone.
II. Summary Findings
From October 1996 through September 1998, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) performed 149 audits of COPS and OJP hiring and redeployment grants totaling $511 million, or 10 percent of the funds COPS has obligated for the program. We continue to perform additional grant audits as our resources permit. Executive summaries of these audits are available for public review on our website: <http://www.usdoj.gov/oig>. A comprehensive program audit of COPS' and OJP's administration of the overall $8.8 billion Community Policing Grant Program is nearing completion and should be issued in the next few months.(1)
Our audits focus on: (1) the allowability of grant expenditures; (2) whether local matching funds were previously budgeted for law enforcement; (3) the implementation or enhancement of community policing activities; (4) hiring efforts to fill vacant sworn officer positions; (5) plans to retain officer positions at grant completion; (6) grantee reporting; and (7) analyses of supplanting issues. For the 149 grant audits, we identified about $52 million in questioned costs and about $71 million in funds that could be better used. Our dollar-related findings amount to 24 percent of the total funds awarded to the 149 grantees.
In considering our COPS audit results, it should be kept in mind that they:
- Are snapshots as of the grant report's issuance date. Subsequent communication between the auditee and COPS/OJP may result in correction to, or elimination of, the issues noted during our audit; and
- May well not be representative of the overall universe of grantees because, as a matter of policy, COPS has referred to us for review what it believes to be its riskiest grantees. During FY 1998, we began supplementing COPS requests for audits by selecting about one-half of the grantees ourselves. Our results to date, however, may still be skewed because of the number of audits conducted on COPS-requested grantees and because our selections were not entirely random. Some of our audits were also intended to be targeted at suspected problem grantees.(2) It should also be noted that COPS and OJP do not always agree with our findings and recommendations. Upon further review and follow-up, COPS and/or OJP may conclude that, in their judgment, a grant violation did not occur.
Other findings include:
- 20 of 145 grantees (14 percent) overestimated salaries and/or benefits in their grant application. The COPS office depends primarily on the information provided by the law enforcement departments that submit the grant applications. When grantees overestimate salaries and/or benefits, COPS overobligates funds that could be available for use elsewhere. Also, grantees may be using the excess grant funds for purposes that are unallowable.
- 74 of 146 grantees (51 percent) included unallowable costs in their claims for reimbursement. Types of unallowable costs include overtime, uniforms, and fringe benefits not previously approved by OJP. When grantees overstate costs, COPS program costs are overstated and taxpayer money is at risk.
- 52 of 67 grantees receiving MORE grants (78 percent) either could not demonstrate that they redeployed officers or could not demonstrate that they had a system in place to track the redeployment of officers into community policing. The COPS office counts 35,852 officers under the MORE program towards the President's goal of adding 100,000 additional officers.
- 60 of 147 grantees (41 percent) showed indicators of using federal funds to supplant local funding instead of using grant funds to supplement local funding. The findings included budgeting for decreases in local positions after receiving COPS grants (27 grantees), using COPS funds to pay for local officers already on board (7 grantees), not filling vacancies promptly (22 grantees), and not meeting the requirements of providing matching funds (35 grantees). When grantees use grant funds to replace local funds rather than to hire new officers, additional officers are not added to the nation's streets. Instead, federal funds are used to pay for existing police officers.
- 83 of 144 grantees (58 percent) either did not develop a good faith plan to retain officer positions or said they would not retain the officer positions at the conclusion of the grant. COPS and OJP started awarding community policing grants in FY 1994 and most grants last for about three years. If COPS positions are not retained beyond the conclusion of the grant, then COPS will have been a short-lived phenomena, rather than helping to launch a lasting change in policing.
- 106 of 140 grantees (76 percent) either failed to submit COPS initial reports, annual reports, or officer progress reports, or submitted these reports late. The reports are critical for COPS to monitor key grant conditions such as supplanting and retention.
- 137 of 146 grantees (94 percent) did not submit all required Financial Status Reports to OJP or submitted them late. Without these reports, OJP cannot monitor implementation of important grant requirements.
- 33 of 146 grantees (23 percent) had weaknesses in their community policing program or were unable to adequately distinguish COPS activities from their pre-grant mode of operations. The findings suggest a need for COPS to refine its definition of the practices that constitute community policing as well as those that do not.
After we issue our grant reports, COPS, OJP, and the grantee are responsible for ensuring that corrective action is taken. By agreement with COPS, OJP is our primary point of contact on follow-up activity for the grants, although COPS works with OJP to address our audit findings and recommendations, particularly those that indicate supplanting has occurred. The options available to COPS and OJP to resolve our dollar-related findings and recommendations include: (1) collection or offset of funds, (2) withholding funds from grantees, (3) bringing the grantee into compliance with grant terms, or (4) concluding that our recommendations cannot or should not be implemented. To address our non dollar-related findings and recommendations, COPS and OJP can, in addition to other options, bring the grantee into compliance with grant requirements or waive certain grant requirements. When OJP submits documentation to us showing that it has addressed our recommendations, the audit report is closed.
The report consists of the body of the report; a detailed matrix setting forth the audit findings made during the 149 audits; the response of COPS and OJP to a draft of the report; and our reply to their response.
1 In addition to expanding on issues contained in this summary report, the program audit will report on COPS' ability to meet the President's goal to put 100,000 additional police officers on the street by 2000. The exact nature of the goal has become confused because of conflicting statements made by Administration officials, who state that the goal is to put 100,000 new officers on the street by the year 2000, and recent statements made to us by COPS officials, who state that the goal is to fund 100,000 new officers. The program audit addresses that issue at length and also addresses COPS' and OJP's monitoring of grantees and the quality of guidance provided to grantees to assist them in implementing essential grant requirements.
2 Of the 149 audits we performed through September 30, 1998, 103 were referred to us by COPS or OJP. Although we selected only 46 of the 149 audits summarized in this report ourselves, our results to date do not differ markedly from the results in the COPS/OJP referred audits.