APPENDIX V (Cont'd)
|U.S. Department of Justice|
|Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)|
Office of the Director
FROM: JOSEPH E. BRANN
CYNTHIA J. SCHWIMER
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
Office Comments Police Hiring and Redeployment
Grants Summary of Audit Findings from October 1996 to
The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (the "COPS" Office) is providing this summary response to the Inspector General's draft Police Hiring and Redeployment Grants Summary of Audit Findings from October 1996 to September 1998 (the "Audit Summary"). In addition to this overview of our primary concerns, the COPS Office is prepared to provide more detailed responses to individual points raised in the Audit Summary at any time.
Before addressing our concerns with the Audit Summary, we acknowledge the role of the Inspector General audits as a means of identifying possible grant compliance issues. The COPS Office is committed to ensuring that all COPS grants are implemented in full compliance with the applicable requirements. When we confirm through the audit process that a grantee has not complied with a grant requirement, we take immediate corrective action to ensure that COPS grant funds are not spent improperly.
In any discussion of the COPS program, however, we believe it is critical to emphasize the overall success of COPS grants in promoting community policing. Law enforcement officials across the country confirm that community policing works and that the COPS program has done more than any other program in history to advance community policing. Crime rates across the country are at the lowest level in 25 years, and law enforcement officials credit community policing as a key factor in this significant decrease. We also believe that there has been a noticeable change in the culture of law enforcement agencies as they embrace community policing and begin working in partnership with their communities to confront crime.
Since its creation in 1994, the COPS Office has awarded over 26,000 grants, funding more than $5.5 billion to over 11,300 state and local law enforcement agencies to promote and institutionalize community policing. We have funded 92,000 additional sworn officer positions nationwide and will reach our goal of funding 100,000 officer positions this year. In fact, the overwhelming majority of all Americans are now served by a law enforcement agency that receives COPS funding. This funding is a catalyst for the revolutionary shift towards community policing, which is redefining the relationship between law enforcement and the community. Through community policing, law enforcement is working hand-in-hand with the citizens it serves to address important public safety concerns.
Community policing has been shown to have a significant positive impact on local communities. For example, in San Diego, California, which has adopted a highly successful community policing strategy, crime rates decreased 30 percent from 1993 to 1997, at the same time that citizen surveys show an 89 percent approval rating of police. In Boston, Massachusetts, where youth violence plagued the city throughout the 1990's, school violence has dropped by 20 percent, thanks in part to a partnership between the community and the police, initially formed and later sustained with COPS grant funding. Similarly, in Mesquite, Texas, COPS grants have funded an interactive policing unit that is credited with being a major contributor to a 22 percent drop in crime from 1994 through 1997. We believe that the success of the COPS program in jurisdictions such as these will stimulate the community support necessary to support the long-term implementation of community policing, well beyond the initial phases supported directly by the COPS program.
In addition, we believe that it is important not to overlook other long-term benefits of COPS funding beyond the grant programs highlighted in the Audit Summary. For example, COPS-funded Regional Community Policing Institutes have trained over 26,000 community policing practitioners and community members. In addition, COPS supports the Community Policing Consortium, which delivers community policing training and technical assistance to police and sheriffs' departments nationwide. In these areas, as well as the funding of additional officer positions, COPS programs have made a significant impact on local law enforcement.
While the COPS Office is dedicated to furthering community policing and to funding 100,000 new sworn officer positions through hiring and other grant programs, we are also firmly committed to ensuring that all COPS grantees comply with applicable grant requirements. In fact, the audits summarized in this report are primarily the results of referrals made by the COPS Office to the Inspector General. To the extent the Inspector General has identified possible areas where COPS grantees could improve their grant implementation or remedy areas of noncompliance, we are committed to working with the grantees and the Inspector General to determine whether the concerns are well-founded, and when they are, to take appropriate corrective action.
A few preliminary issues concerning the Audit Summary merit discussion. First, the Audit Summary is based on only 1.2 percent of all 11,300 COPS grantees. In addition, 103 of the total pool of 149 audited grantees were actually referred by the COPS Office or the Office of Justice Programs to the Inspector General based on identified areas of possible noncompliance. Furthermore, it is our understanding that the remaining 46 sites were not entirely selected at random. The audits were therefore based primarily on a high risk pool of pre-selected grantees. Accordingly, the Audit Summary is by its very nature skewed toward highlighting potential problems. The sample of grantees audited therefore does not represent an accurate cross-section of all COPS grantees.
Second, we have expressed our concern that the individual audit reports addressed in the Audit Summary were not provided to the COPS Office in draft form for advance review and comment. Had the COPS Office been given a chance to provide advance input, we believe that many of the problems addressed below could have been clarified at the outset. We are pleased that the Inspector General has agreed to provide future audit reports to the COPS Office in draft form so that misunderstandings can be avoided.
Finally, it is important to note that many of the identified audit "findings" are in fact simply the Inspector General's recommendations for consideration by the COPS Office or its grantees. To the extent the Inspector General has made recommendations, we welcome them. However, we believe that there is a fundamental difference between a finding and a recommendation, and that mere recommendations do not reflect noncompliance by COPS grantees. We regret that the Audit Summary does not draw that distinction where appropriate.
The Audit Summary identifies several primary areas of concern, and we address each below. Although the COPS Office is actively working with the audited grantees to address the findings or recommendations raised in the 149 summarized audit reports at this time, we did not have enough time to conduct a detailed comparison of all 149 audit reports against the conclusions in the Audit Summary while preparing this response. Our comments below therefore are based on our detailed analysis of the first 64 audit reports as compared to the Audit Summary conclusions.
Many of the audit reports discussed in the Audit Summary contain recommendations for improving a grantee's community policing efforts. These recommendations do not reflect grantee noncompliance with the underlying grant requirement, however. For example, in the audit of Carthage, Mississippi, the auditors reported that all four of the police officers and three of the four citizens they interviewed confirmed that the grantee was implementing the approved community policing plan as required. This information demonstrates that the grantee was in compliance with the community policing requirement of its COPS grants. The auditors went on to report, however, that a fourth citizen "indicated" that the grantee's "interaction with the youth in the community could be improved." Based on this statement, the audit report contained a recommendation that the COPS Office instruct the grantee to "improve its community policing plan as it relates to the youth of the city."
This recommendation, while possibly helpful for the grantee to consider, exceeds the scope of the compliance requirement and instead reflects a policy recommendation by the auditors. The Audit Summary reflects this recommendation under the category of "Community Policing Not Enhanced/Could Be Improved," when it is evident that the grantee had in fact enhanced its community policing efforts and was in full compliance. The recommendation therefore should not be characterized as an indication of grantee noncompliance.
Other audit reports returned findings against grantees whose community policing efforts had changed since the submission of their initial plans. These grantees were not in violation of the requirement to implement community policing, but simply needed to update their community policing plans to reflect their current activities. For example, in the audit of the Richmond Police Department, Virginia, the auditors recommended that the COPS Office require the grantee to "remedy" over $900,000 in expended grant funds because it found that the grantee's activities were not consistent with the community policing plan submitted with the original COPS grant application. The COPS Office determined that the grantee was not in violation of the underlying community policing requirement, but simply needed to update its community policing plan to reflect its chosen method of community policing.
The COPS Office has determined based on its analysis of 64 of the 149 audit reports included in the Audit Summary that it would have objected to approximately 96 percent of the community policing recommendations or "findings" for similar reasons if it had received these audit reports in draft form for advance comment. We believe that the Audit Summary therefore does not accurately reflect the level of compliance with the community policing implementation requirement among all COPS grantees.
Since these audits were conducted, however, the COPS Office has changed its retention plan policy. Now, all new grantees are required, as a condition of the grant, to commit in writing their plans for retaining the additional officer positions for one full local budget cycle following the expiration of the grant. We feel confident that this policy change will significantly enhance evidence of retention efforts. (Furthermore, although we acknowledge the Inspector General's previous recommendation that the COPS Office mandate a three-year post-grant retention requirement, we believe that the one local budget cycle standard, which was approved by the Attorney General following a full consideration of the alternatives, is sufficient.)
While we are concerned about possible instances of supplanting, we do not think the Audit Summary accurately characterizes the degree of noncompliance among COPS grantees. The Audit Summary frequently concludes that audited grantees engaged in supplanting based on circumstantial evidence, such as evidence of a reduction-in-force among locally funded officers during the grant period. However, an accurate supplanting determination depends on a second analytic step - namely, obtaining and reviewing documentation from the grantee that may or may not demonstrate whether the reduction-in-force or other action would have occurred even in the absence of the COPS grant funding. If a grantee has reduced its force independent of a COPS grant, and then is able to hire additional officers through a COPS grant, the grantee plainly has not supplanted any officers.
For example, in the audit of the Rosebud Sioux Police Department, South Dakota, the auditors returned a finding of supplanting based on an identified reduction-in-force during the grant period. The audit report contained no discussion of the reasons for the reduction-in-force. When the COPS Office conducted further analysis, we determined that the Department=s sworn force was reduced because of widespread Bureau of Indian Affairs funding cuts which had impacted many tribal grantees. The grantee had not reduced its sworn force as a direct result of receiving COPS grant funding, and therefore we determined that it had not violated the nonsupplanting requirement.
The COPS Office has disagreed with the auditors= supplanting analysis for similar reasons in 69 percent of the Summary audits that it has fully analyzed. We estimate that this percentage of disagreements could have been reduced significantly if we had received these reports in draft form for advance comment. Accordingly, while we, too, are concerned about supplanting, and take corrective action in all cases of confirmed supplanting noncompliance, we do not believe the Audit Summary fairly characterizes the extent to which it occurs.
The COPS Office does not require grantees to begin tracking redeployment until the grant is fully implemented through the purchase, installation, and use of the new equipment or technology, or the hiring of the new civilian staff. We believe this standard is appropriate because grantees cannot redeploy sworn officers into community policing until the grant-funded support resources (equipment, technology, or civilian staff) are fully operational. Many of the Audit Summary's examples of redeployment tracking concerns are due to the fact that these grantees are not yet positioned to begin the tracking process.
For example, in the audit of the Richmond Police Department, California, the auditors recommended that the COPS Office terminate the remaining funds on a COPS MORE '96 grant if the grantee did not demonstrate and document the redeployment of sworn officers into community policing within 120 days of the audit report. In fact, the grantee's COPS MORE '96 equipment was not yet operational at the time of the audit. In these circumstances, the COPS Office would work with the grantee to offer an extension to the dates of the grant period based on unavoidable delays in equipment implementation rather than automatically terminating a grant award as recommended by the audit report.
The COPS Office estimates that it would have disagreed with approximately 33 percent of the audit findings regarding failure to track redeployment if it had received these reports in draft form for advance comment on the basis that the grantees had not yet fully implemented their COPS MORE project, and therefore were not yet required to track their redeployment. While we are assisting COPS MORE grantees with the development and use of effective redeployment tracking plans to ensure accurate redeployment tracking, we do not believe that large numbers of COPS MORE grantees are not complying with the redeployment requirement.
In conclusion, we do not fully agree with the methodology or conclusions set forth in the Audit Summary and believe that our differences are in many respects fundamental. As noted previously, however, in those areas where we do agree with the underlying audit findings, we have either taken corrective action to remedy the noncompliance or are working with our grantees to do so at this time.
We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Audit Summary and hope that these comments provide a better understanding of our areas of disagreement.
OIG Note: Additional attachments to the consolidated response were too voluminous to incorporate into this report. The attachments may be obtained by contacting the COPS Office.