October 14, 2011

Gillibrand: New York Shortchanged By COPS Hiring Program

New York Received Only $4 Million - 1.6 Percent of Total Nationwide Police Hiring Grants

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) urged the U.S. Department of Justice to fully disclose the factors that went into assessing grant applicants’ commitment to community policing and how those factors were used decide how grant funding to hire and retain police is allocated to local law enforcement. The Justice Department recently announced more than $243 million in nationwide COPS Hiring Program (CHP) grants to hire and retain police – with only $4 million – or 1.6 percent of funding – directed towards New York State. No funding was awarded to New York City, Long Island, or Westchester. 

“The COPS Hiring Program shortchanges New York,” Senator Gillibrand said. “New York City remains a top terrorist target and we must continue to be vigilant in protecting New York. I will continue to push to ensure that New York gets its fair share.”   

Senator Gillibrand wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, “I remain concerned that the methodology used by the COPS Office to select awardees has not fully taken into account the fiscal and law enforcement challenges faced by the cities and towns in New York… In order to better understand this process, I would like to know what factors went into  assessing an applicant’s ‘commitment to community policing’ so that I can work with law enforcement agencies in my state to ensure that they are in the best possible position to succeed in the next round of grant awards.” 

COPS Hiring Program grants provide funding to state, local, and law enforcement agencies to hire, preserve and/or rehire career law enforcement officers in an effort to create and preserve jobs and increase their community policing capacity and crime prevention efforts.  The $243.4 million allocated for CHP will create or preserve 1,021 sworn law enforcement positions for three years.  These grants will cover the full salary and benefits packages for highly trained public sector positions.  

Gillibrand’s full letter to Attorney General Holder is below: 

Dear Attorney General Holder,

I am writing regarding the recent announcement of the FY2011 COPS Hiring Program grant awards.  I appreciate the fact that the amount of funding allocated to police departments in New York has increased over FY2010, but I remain greatly concerned that New York’s law enforcement community continues to be underfunded by this program. 

Communities across New York continue to face significant public safety challenges in the midst of increased budgetary constraints.  New York City is the most populous city in the United States, and the number one terrorist target.  The NYPD has an enormous responsibility to protect against the continuous threat of terrorism as well as ensure that the city’s approximately 8 million residents are safe in their communities.  Drug trafficking and gang activity continue to fuel violent crime in communities on Long Island and in Upstate New York.  Drug trafficking along the Northern Border continues to pose a major threat to New York State and the country at large.  Each of these challenges require additional community police officers, which was reflected in the applications of ninety-four New York police departments for COPS Hiring Program grants, of which only two were selected. 

As you may be aware, New York received a smaller amount of funding than both New Jersey and Connecticut.  Additionally, the state of Florida, which has a population size comparable to that of New York, received $11.5 million to hire 52 new officers across 7 jurisdictions.  This is compared to the $4.27 million to hire 18 officers in two neighboring cities awarded to New York.  California, a state with slightly less than twice the population of New York, received $71.9 million, or approximately 18 times the amount that was awarded to New York. 

I highlight these numbers to underscore what appears to be a troubling disparity in how grant awards have been allocated.  I remain concerned that the methodology used by the COPS Office to select awardees has not fully taken into account the fiscal and law enforcement challenges faced by the cities and towns in New York.  This year, the COPS Office gave equal weight to each applicant’s “commitment to community policing” and their financial need.  In order to better understand this process, I would like to know what factors went into  assessing an applicant’s “commitment to community policing” so that I can work with law enforcement agencies in my state to ensure that they are in the best possible position to succeed in next round of grant awards. 

I am committed to working with you and the Department of Justice to ensure that law enforcement agencies have the resources needed to keep our communities safe.  I am also committed to ensuring that New York’s police departments are given fair and equitable treatment by the federal government to meet the major law enforcement challenges that we continue to face.  Thank you for your attention to this critical issue, and I look forward to your response.