During the last week of June I had the pleasure of announcing the 2012 COPS Hiring Program (CHP) awards. As I discussed last month, this year we altered the program to promote the hiring of military veterans into new officer positions and why we thought that was important. Now that the awards are announced, I can add to that and say that I misread the field. We were expecting that the majority of the positions we’d fund would be to save positions from being laid off or to rehire officers already laid off. In fact, of the 800 officer positions we are funding, 629 will be filled by individuals who have served at least 180 days of active duty since September 11, 2001. If there is anything that I regret in this program and its focus on veterans, it is only that there wasn’t more we could do to help address the high rates of unemployment currently faced by those who have served.
"...of the 800 officer positions we are funding, 629 will be filled by individuals who have served at least 180 days of active duty since September 11, 2001..."
Another aspect of the 2012 CHP program is the 10 percent of the funding that was used to support agencies that are going to work to address particular problems that are administration priorities, namely homicide, gun crime, and vulnerable populations—namely children and teens. It is our expectation that these agencies will, through their comprehensive community policing plans, ultimately contribute to the national conversation on best practices for addressing these crime problems. Not every community in this country faces the same crime problems in the same way—which is why for most of the awards the problem identified does not matter, just how the applicant proposes to address it—but there will always be some crimes that are cross-cutting in our society and that the Department of Justice will want to focus efforts upon.
I do not doubt that right now there are many agency leaders out there wondering how they can improve their applications in the future. For many of you, the biggest challenge is that we can only ever fund around 10 percent of our applicants. But what I would like to remind all future applicants of is the purpose of the COPS Office. We are here to advance community policing for the betterment of public safety. No matter what changes we may make to the program in any given year (like the veteran focus or problem-specific funding this year), that mission will always be integral to the design of our grant programs and the selection process. Jobs may be created through COPS Office grants, but I do not think of CHP as a jobs program and nor should you. The COPS Hiring Program, like all the work we do, is a community policing program. And it is through these programs that we will find our way, in collaboration with others, to safer communities and a safer nation.