Mobile technology is playing an increasingly integral role in the work of law enforcement agencies. It connects officers to a trove of real-time data in the field and enhances responders’ situational awareness. It also streamlines the flow of information to coordinate justice, public safety, emergency response and community services more effectively.
Mobile devices, along with accompanying computer aided dispatch (CAD) and resource management apps, promise to save time, save money and enhance the ability of law enforcement personnel to carry out their day-to-day responsibilities.
But every tool, however essential or impactful, comes with a cost — and many municipal budgets just don’t have the capacity to pay for technology upgrades on their own. Fortunately, a range of technology-friendly grant programs are available to supplement local budgets and bring these tools into reach for public safety agencies of all types and sizes.
Federal Grants for Public Safety Agencies
At the federal level, where most grants originate, 2019 funding opportunities for law enforcement technology fall into two broad categories: technology-focused grants and technology-friendly grants.
Technology-focused grant programs like the Technology Innovation for Public Safety (TIPS) and Body-worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program (BWC-PIP) are available for technology acquisitions to benefit local policing efforts. These are generally made by the Department of Justice and are available in the spring.
The lion’s share of budget for technology will be provided through technology-friendly grants — programs that have been developed for non-tech purposes, such as terrorism preparedness or opioid abuse programs. They can fund a significant amount of technology inasmuch as the applicants choose to leverage that tech to achieve their objectives and include it in their applications. Technology-friendly grants are made by all 26 federal grantmaking agencies, with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security being the most prominent prospects for public safety and justice funding.
These opportunities may take the form of formula grants you already know about, like State Homeland Security and Justice Assistance Grants; or newer, competitive programs like the Body-worn Camera or Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Programs. They’re all equally relevant and worthy of consideration in the funding landscape.
State-Specific Grant Opportunities
State-specific programs, many of which fall into the technology-friendly category, are also open throughout the year. Although state grant awards are typically smaller than federal grants, they may also be less competitive and more focused on issues that are particular to your state.
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Further, because they’re driven by needs within individual states, state grant programs may advance broad-based initiatives like school safety, or support more targeted goals like improving how public safety and justice agencies manage traffic enforcement records. Each state’s funding landscape is different, and while the state criminal justice agency is always a great place to start, it pays to look more broadly at agencies that focus on health, housing, education and urban and rural development. These specialized agencies may also offer programs that can be led by, or support, local law enforcement and help fund your technology plans along the way.
How Can You Secure Technology Grants?
The Grants Office and Samsung recently came together to present a webinar to preview 2019 funding for law enforcement technology. The webinar, “2019 Grants Forecast: Funding Law Enforcement Technology in the Year Ahead,” looked at how public safety technology is simplifying and empowering law enforcement and discussed strategies for maximizing funding this year.
On the webinar, Todd Maxwell, senior manager on Samsung’s public safety team, provides an update on how smartphones are transforming the work of policing, with details of the benefits that agencies can expect to accrue as a result of making the change.
Then, Grants Office’s grants development consultant Ashley Schultz provides timely and actionable grants intelligence, including a survey of the top federal law enforcement technology funders, highlights of 2019 Homeland Security and Justice priorities, types of grant-fundable technology and tips for getting a technology-enabled law enforcement project funded.
Grants tend to slow down from December to January, so it’s an opportune time to investigate what’s available and develop a plan for making the most of all available grant funding. If you’re thinking that 2019 might be the year you take greater advantage of the funding that’s available to your agency, here are a few tips to make you more successful at winning grants:
- Cast a wide net initially. When you’re first looking for funding prospects, it helps to think as broadly and inclusively as possible. Don’t discount a potentially great funding source just because it would require a partnership you don’t currently have in place or because another organization would have to be the official lead. You will eventually need to pare down your list, but start with a clear sense of what the landscape looks like.
- Make a realistic assessment of your grant-seeking capacity. If you know you only have the resources to apply to two grant programs in 2019, you probably won’t apply for the first two that come along. Instead, consider the resources (internal time and/or money for outside grant-writers) that will be required to develop a really competitive proposal to each funder you’re planning to apply to.
- Develop an action plan and go for it! Narrow down your list of prospects to the number you can afford to develop great applications to, bring in all the stakeholders that will be involved in each of the proposals, and make sure everyone knows the time frames (or anticipated time frames) they will be actively working on proposals — either as grant-writers or as members of the planning team. Be sure to include vendors who will be providing pricing data for your budgets and helping to develop a technology configuration that will work.
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