Public safety technology vendors may find another big source of funds. The House has approved 1.25-billion-dollars per year for the next five years for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, and 350-million-dollars of that money each year can be used for technology. The bill now goes to the Senate.
Economic stimulus placed one-billion-dollars into the COPS grant program, but the economic stimulus funds could only be used for hiring – no technology. Police departments across the country are now scrambling to get their share of the money for beefing up their forces. (Good for them.)
Back in the day, technology funding was an important part of the COPS program. Many law enforcement technology applications established their beach-heads with money from COPS grants. They had to present a compelling case that their technology would stretch law enforcement resources. This was not difficult for communications, 9-1-1, computer aided dispatch, automated emergency notification, crime analysis, incident management, and other vendors. (Now, add interoperability, video surveillance, information-sharing and collaboration to the list.) But, the COPS technology funds almost dried up when the program’s funding was cut under the Bush administration.
The economic stimulus boost to COPS funding has been highly publicized. (Politicians like to talk about hiring more police officers.) Technology vendors had hoped that some of the COPS economic stimulus money could be used for non-hiring purposes, but that wasn’t to be. Now, if the House has its way, significant technology spending can resume under the COPS program.
Not that technology vendors had no reason to be hopeful. Technology-friendly programs, much larger than COPS, were funded under the economic stimulus law. Proceeds of both the Byrne/Justice Assistant Grant program and State Stabilization Funds can be spent on public safety technology. (See Galain Solutions report, “Impact of the Economic Stimulus Law on Public Safety“).
The House action doesn’t mean blank checks for public safety technology vendors. First, the Senate must approve and the President must sign the law. Then, the money will be turned over to the Justice Department, which administers COPS funding. Then, states must apply. Then, localities must apply. Then, procurement rules will need to be followed. Each step in the process is challenged because of the enormity of new demands handling large amounts of money, perhaps under new oversight.
Still, vendors are in a strong position to boost their revenues by (1) understanding the process, (2) assisting their prospects, and most importantly (3) understanding their customers and effectively presenting strong value propositions that relate to the grant programs.