By Mary Kate McGrath - February 12, 2020
On Tuesday, Feb. 4, the Department of Justice announced that the Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) is releasing over $500 million in grant solicitations for programs that improve school safety and invest in community policing, including the School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP), according to a press release. In 2008, the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act gave the COPs office authority to directly award states, local governments, and Native American tribal land funding to improve security on school grounds. For K-12 safety managers looking to implement new school safety tools or build a more comprehensive safety strategy, the funding may present an opportunity to invest in new evidence-based school safety solutions.
COPS Office Director Phil Keith explained in a press release from the Department of Justice the new grant funds and their potential to expand community policing saying that law enforcement officers, “fight an unrelenting fight” and the grant program is largely aimed to support them. “This funding will provide critical support to state, local, and tribal agencies so that they can bolster their ranks and reinforce community policing strategies and programs, and further our commitment to reducing violent crime,” Keith said in the official statement. Many programs focused on community policing will be expanded with the additional funds, including law enforcement mental health and wellness programs, hiring programs, critical training.
Despite the community policing focus of the funding, a significant portion of grant money will be allocated for school violence prevention. In an era where school safety risks are greater than ever, school officials looking to bolster school safety can benefit from the addition funding as well.
COPs is a federal agency created to advance community policing efforts nationwide, and since 1994 the division of the Department of Justice has allocated $14 billion to advance community policing, according to the Office of Public Affairs. Grants have been awarded to more than 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies, and have managed to fund the hiring and redeployment of approximately 130,000 officers and provide resources, including training and technical assistance. In that tradition, the department set aside grants for several major programs, many of which continue the department’s tradition of advancing community policing efforts. Here are several key initiatives expanded with the new grant solicitations:
The 2020 Community Policing Development Program: Funding for significant community policing projects, providing guidance as developing and implementing new and innovative strategies. Departments will also be able to use funds to build knowledge about effective programs and outcomes, as well as support new approaches for promoting safe communities. Included among these strategies are the Law Enforcement Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation Toolkit, Recruiting the Next Generation of Officers and Deputies; and Promising Practices in Law Enforcement Victim Support..
The COPS Hiring Program: Funding for this competitive community policing program will provide direct funding for the hiring of of career law enforcement officers. Amid officer shortages, the program also helps law enforcement agencies maintain sufficient sworn personnel levels to keep their communities safe. Funding for the program has recently been on hold through a national injunction, which was recently lifted.
Law Enforcement Mental Health & Wellness Act Program: Created to provide access to mental health and wellness services for officers, and decrease stigma around seeking help. Strategies for better delivery of programs, such as peer support training, are also included in the plan.
The Preparing for Active Shooter Situations Program: In an era with rising rates of gun violence, critical funding will be set aside for scenario-based active shooter training for law enforcement and first responders to allow for more effective response during emergency situations. During the first year, nearly 200,000 officers and first responders will have access to scenario-based, multi-disciplinary training classes.
The STOP School Violence Prevention Program: The SVPP provides funding to improve security at schools and on school grounds in state, local, and tribal jurisdictions through evidence-based resources and tools.
Applications for the School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP) grants must be submitted by a state or local (city, county, township) or through public agencies. Eligible public agencies include county or city public school systems, public boards of education, independent school districts, police departments, sheriff departments, or Native American tribes, as per the COPs division of the Department of Justice. Recipients of SVPP grants must use funding for the benefit of K-12, primary, or secondary school students. The SVPP grants will pay for up to 75% of of funding on for school safe measures in and around K-12, primary, secondary school grounds, including the training, tools, and strategies listed below, :
For school safety managers the new round of funding presents a unique opportunity to invest in critical emergency communication technology technology. A panic button app can be a critical tool for schools looking to bolster safety with SVPP grants, allowing teachers and administrators to directly contact local law enforcement during a variety of emergencies, including an active shooter scenario, a medical emergency, fire, or other situation requiring assistance from local law enforcement.
Under the COPs grant standards listed above, a panic button app qualifies as an expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency. In addition to notifying first responders about the nature of the emergency, the app also provides ciritical location data that will allow help to arrive on the scene more quickly. Internal communication capability also empowers teachers to communicate with administrators and other classrooms, mitigating panic and preventing further impediment to response.
Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.
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