This year more than 1,400 law enforcement agencies applied for funding under the COPS Hiring Program (CHP). Our staff at the COPS Office has been busy reviewing and grading these applications for several weeks and we expect to make announcements early this summer. Before that happens I wanted to explain how we arrived at the decisions that we made regarding the program this year. Specifically, I want to let you know why we chose to emphasize the hiring of military veterans.
Over the last few years the priority of the COPS Office has been to maximize the impact of grant dollars, particularly since the level of available funding has been so significantly reduced. CHP is not just a jobs program, as evidenced by the emphasis that we place on the identification of specific crime problems and the development of community policing responses to those problems in the applications. However, we also are not immune to the economic realities facing many agencies around the country. The downturn in the economy has resulted in substantial layoffs of civilian and sworn personnel. Because of these economic conditions, we have maintained an interest in funding departments that will use their grants to save sworn law enforcement jobs, either by preventing a layoff that has been scheduled by the local government or allowing for the “re-hire” of an officer who previously lost their job through a budgetary layoff (either at the applicant agency or another agency).
"Late last year the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 12 percent of veterans who had served since September 11, 2001 were unemployed"
We also are not immune to the impact that this economy has had on our country’s military veterans. Late last year the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 12 percent of veterans who had served since September 11, 2001 were unemployed—a figure higher than the rate for all veterans, as well as the national average. I served 28 years in the military; 3 years active-duty army and 25 years in the Coast Guard reserve. My reserve time included two extended call-ups, in 1991 and 2003. I say this to emphasize that I have a personal understanding and respect for what our returning veterans face. That is why I proposed that this year’s CHP program also be part of a larger national initiative to get vets back to work.
To that end, we said that if your agency was going to apply for funding for “new hire” positions, those positions needed to be filled by individuals who served on active duty in the armed forces for at least 180 consecutive days, any part of which occurred during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and who has been discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions. We have also been working with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs throughout this spring to make sure that both agencies and prospective officers will have the information and resources they will need to make these new hires successful.
We expected that most of the applications we received this year would be for re-hire positions. In fact, overwhelmingly, the positions requested under CHP were for veteran new hires. It makes me proud that so many agencies across the country are willing to commit to hiring a recent veteran. Given the current levels of funding, it is unlikely that we will be able to award grants to more than 10 percent of our applicant pool. Nonetheless, I am pleased that CHP will allow many of those men and women who have served in the armed forces to continue their professional lives in public service, helping to make our communities safer here at home.