Law enforcement technology is essential to the job nowadays, but in-car cameras and body-worn cameras come with a price. That’s why the federal government and private organizations try to ease some of the financial burden by offering grants. We’ve put together a list of five things to remember as you complete your next law enforcement grant application.
1. Follow Instructions
Typically, the government agency or organization offering the funding will outline exactly how they want the information presented.
A grant offered by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) for body-worn cameras (BWC) earlier this year had more than a dozen pages explaining the “Application and Submission Information.” Guidelines such as using “appropriately descriptive file names (e.g., “Program Narrative,” “Budget Detail Worksheet,”…” or written in “400 words or less,” were laid out in those pages and are not mere suggestions, but requirements when it comes to grant writing.
The BWC grant explicitly said not following the outlined instructions may prevent applicants from receiving the award. “This section describes in detail what an application should include. An applicant should anticipate that if it fails to submit an application that contains all of the specified elements, it may negatively affect the review of its application; and, should a decision be made to make an award, it may result in the inclusion of award conditions that preclude the recipient from accessing or using award funds until the recipient satisfies the conditions and OJP makes the funds available.”
Also, the BJA Guide to Grants document stresses that font size and page count matter. “Proper formatting, as identified in the solicitation, must also be followed. Submissions that do not adhere to requirements such as font size, spacing, and page length will be deemed ineligible.”
2. Explain Your Needs in a Concise Yet Detailed Manner
No one knows your local law enforcement needs better than you. After reading your grant application, the person reviewing your documents should understand what problem your department is going to address with the grant money and how the issue will be resolved or drastically improved with the funding. To communicate this compellingly, it is imperative that you explain your problem and its solution in a detailed and concise manner.
A couple of things to include when putting together your proposal include data and anecdotal information. If you are applying for BWC funding to decrease citizen complaints and increase officer safety, supply data for those specific things over the last few years. Additionally, back up those statistics with personal stories from officers or citizens who can provide color to the particular problem you are hoping to address with the grant funding. You may even want to walk through a few of the ways you’ve tried to solve this problem before with little success.
3. Limit Your Jargon
While you are applying for a law enforcement grant, there is no guarantee the person reviewing your application will be familiar with law enforcement. If the person reviewing your application has to look up words they are unfamiliar with, or can’t understand your use of industry acronyms, buzzwords, or jargon, it may reduce your chance for success. One way to make sure a layperson can understand your grant proposal is to have someone outside of law enforcement review your application before submitting.
4. Edit and Proofread
When a grant reviewer is comparing two different applications, the one with spelling errors or punctuation mistakes is an easy one to eliminate. It is incredibly important to make sure your grammar, spelling, and punctuation are proofed.
However, don’t just worry about commas and spelling when you are editing. Also, make sure your data and financials are consistent and correct throughout the entire document. As you get closer to the application date, tweaking numbers in the budget and re-writing different sections of the grant is standard. Don’t forget to change any amounts you have updated throughout the entire product. Attention to detail shows the grant reviewer you care, and they should too.
Citations are another area to focus on. If you are providing data or information, make sure to cite where you got the data. A variety of sources from all levels, local, state, federal, demonstrate your understanding of how the issue will be addressed with funding.
Once you have gone through and made sure the document is consistent and edited to the best of your ability, call in backup. Have several colleagues look over your grant document without giving any additional information. When they finish, be sure to make changes to the text if something is unclear to those reviewing it. Chances are if one person doesn’t understand, others may be confused as well. Also, ask them to look for holes or issues with the grant application. Do they have questions that aren’t addressed in the document?
5. Make It Visually Interesting
By the time your grant is complete and ready to be submitted, it will be full of detailed information explaining what problem you will solve with the funding offered by the award. That doesn’t mean it has to be visually dull. As long as you follow the rules laid out in the grant application guidelines, you can provide the information requested with colorful graphs or images. While the aesthetically pleasing application will never take precedence over quality writing, it is a way to set yourself apart. If you are unsure about the addition of graphs or images within the grants guidelines, ask.
Law Enforcement Grant Opportunities
As this year comes to an end, there will be grant opportunities for 2020 being posted in the upcoming weeks and months. Here are some websites to check regularly for law enforcement grant opportunities.
- The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) branch of the DOJ has a grants page that lists funding opportunities.
- PoliceOne has a grant finder website>/a> that allows you to search for “federal, state, local and corporate grant opportunities.”
- The DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) offers federal financial assistance through its funding resource center. br>
- Grants.gov is a central location where all federal grants being offered are located. Using the search function, see what grants you may want to apply for and submit.
- The BJA’s Body-Worn Camera Toolkit also has a funding section which lists all grants “for agencies seeking to implement body-worn cameras.”
- The National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) has a resource page that outlines grants and funding for different programs including bulletproof vests and BWC.
- 911.gov a website run by the National 911 Program includes a list of federal grant opportunities that include not only those from the DOJ, but also other government departments including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Commerce (DOC), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- Don’t forget to look into any state or local funding, and be sure to reach out to corporate, community and family foundations as well.
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