Manage better! Contract more?


With more than $1 billion in stimulus spending tripling the budget of the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, what can the department do to improve management of the program?

More contracting.

Or at least that’s what the department’s inspector general is recommending in a new report out today.

In addition to awarding grants to state, local and tribal governments for hiring and equipping police officers, COPS program managers also award grants to companies for training conferences, publications and other services for grantees. While there is nothing wrong with that, the department would have more control over the cost of those services and how they’re delivered if they purchased them through a contract because managers can impose stricter terms and conditions, the IG said.

The somewhat unusual recommendation to contract more is part of a 28-page advisory report the IG released today to assist COPS mangers in handling the program’s new-found wealth. Without the stimulus package’s $1 billion plus up, COPS managers would only have $285 million to administer in 2009, 80 percent of which would go out through congressional earmarks.

The Recovery Act set aside an additional $1 billion to help state and local governments hire, retain and train law enforcement officers, alleviating some of the budget crunch many local governments now face. Almost all of that money will be dispersed through the more labor-intensive competitive grants process.

In addition to contracting for services, the IG also recommended Justice ensure COPS grants recipients are following the rules of the program by developing recurring, mandatory training on the program’s terms and conditions. The IG also suggested managers vet grant applications more widely within the Justice Department to ensure a potential recipient has performed well in other programs.  COPS mangers should also measure the effects its awards have on reducing crime and increasing trust in police to ensure program money is spent wisely, the IG said.


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