Congress created the Small Communities Grant Program (SCGP) in fiscal year 1998. SCGP grants help communities with populations of 50,000 or fewer that had previously received a COPS hiring grant and faced laying off the law enforcement professional(s) hired with that grant as a result of unanticipated budget shortfalls or fiscal distress.
COPS hiring programs like Phase I, FAST, and UHP helped many smaller communities implement community policing. Although COPS funding may have increased smaller agencies' numbers by only one or two, that often translated to 25 to 50 percent increases in the size of their forces. At the conclusion of the three-year grant period, however, some agencies had suffered unexpected fiscal distress that, in combination with a limited tax base, made it difficult to retain the awarded officers after the grant funding period expired. COPS' SCGP grants provided additional funding to help cover officer salary costs to those agencies that could adequately demonstrate fiscal distress as a result of a natural disaster, an unexpected decline in tax revenue, an extraordinary unanticipated one-time cost, or other factor that severely impacted the local budget. This funding helped those agencies retain their new officers and continue the public safety programs they implemented under the existing COPS grants.
The SCGP awarded more than $12 million to 774 small law enforcement agencies across the nation to provide an additional year of funding for approximately 1,000 full-time officer positions.