|U.S. Department of Justice|
|Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)|
MEMORANDUM TO: GUY K. ZIMMERMAN
ASSISTANT INSPECTOR GENERAL
FROM: MARY LOU LEARY
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
SUBJECT: Response to Audit of the Management and Administration of the
Community Oriented Policing Services Grant Program
The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (the COPS Office) is providing this response to the three primary areas addressed in the Inspector General's draft Audit of the Management and Administration of the Community Oriented Policing Services Grant Program (the Audit): (1) our ability to meet the President's goal for the COPS program; (2) our monitoring of grantees; and (3) the guidance that we provide to our grantees regarding essential grant requirements. In addition, the COPS Office and the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) are providing specific responses to the ten recommendations contained in the Audit with related attachments in Tabs 1 through 10.
The COPS Office recognizes that the Inspector General can play a significant role in improving program management and administration by identifying areas where we can strengthen or clarify our grants administration or monitoring procedures. Where the Inspector General has made valid recommendations regarding our program management or administration, the COPS Office is implementing appropriate corrective action to improve our procedures. For example, we have strengthened our enforcement of the deadlines for submitting signed award documents, have improved our procedures for on-site grant monitoring, and have implemented better procedures for enforcing the timely submission of progress reports.
While the COPS Office agrees with the Inspector General's recommendations in several practical areas of program management or administration, we strongly disagree with the Inspector General's broader inference that the COPS program will not succeed in meeting its goal of adding 100,000 officers to the streets nationwide to expand and improve community policing, increase police presence, and enhance public safety. The facts demonstrate otherwise:
Not only do we believe that the facts refute the Inspector General's broad conclusions regarding the success of the COPS program, we also disagree with some of the underlying analyses that the Inspector General uses to reach those conclusions. Specifically, the Inspector General relies on its analysis of 149 individual audits of COPS and OJP grantees(1) to support some of its conclusions regarding the actual number of officers that the COPS program will fund and deploy to the streets. In fact, as even the Inspector General acknowledges, these individual audits cannot be said to represent the entire population of 11,300 COPS grantees because the COPS Office or OJP referred 103 of the 149 sites to the Inspector General based on identified areas of possible noncompliance. The Inspector General also acknowledges that the remaining 46 sites were selected based on specific criteria, including possible problems with grant implementation, and that the group of audited grantees discussed in the Audit is therefore not a random sample.
We believe that "high risk" grants should be a primary focus of Inspector General audits. The COPS Office is committed to ensuring that all COPS grants are implemented in compliance with applicable grant requirements, as evidenced by our practice of referring sites to the Inspector General for audits based on identified signs of possible noncompliance. We also believe, however, that the Inspector General has no basis for inferring broad conclusions about the COPS program from this high risk pool of pre-selected sites, which represents only approximately 1% of the 11,300 COPS grantees nationwide.
We have also previously expressed our concern to the Inspector General that for the 149 audits in question, the auditors did not consistently apply the COPS grant requirements correctly in reaching conclusions regarding grantee compliance. Our review of individual grantee audit findings indicates that the Inspector General misinterpreted and/or misapplied the COPS Office's compliance standards in the areas of retention, redeployment, supplanting, and community policing in a significant number of audits. The Inspector General does not agree with our analysis, and this dispute is the subject of an ongoing audit resolution process chaired by the Deputy Attorney General of the Department of Justice.
As part of the audit resolution process, the Inspector General randomly selected 40 audit findings in these four compliance areas from the 149 individual grantee audits for review. We determined after reviewing the audit findings and the grantees' responses that we disagree with approximately 90% of the retention findings; 50% of the redeployment findings; 100% of the supplanting findings; and 70% of the community policing findings. These issues form the basis of the ongoing audit resolution process, which will resolve the significant disagreements between the COPS Office and the Inspector General regarding the individual audit findings which the Inspector General uses to support many of the conclusions in this Audit.
Despite the fact that the audit resolution process has not yet concluded, and therefore the underlying findings in this audit report are still under review by the Department of Justice, the Inspector General has decided to issue this Audit at this time. As a result, any conclusions drawn from the audits of the 149 pre-selected high risk grantees are questionable and premature in light of the ongoing audit resolution process.
With this background in mind, our responses to the three primary areas addressed in the Audit are set forth below.
A. Meeting the Goal of Adding 100,000 Officers On the Street
(1) The Goal of the COPS Program
One of the President's primary goals for the COPS program is to add 100,000 officers to the streets.(2) The COPS Office has already reached the first milestone in this process by awarding grants to fund 100,000 officers, ahead of schedule and under budget.
We recognize that statements regarding the goal of adding 100,000 officers to the streets have not been entirely consistent in distinguishing between the first step in this process - awarding grants to fund 100,000 officers through the year 2000 - and the ultimate goal of seeing those 100,000 officers deployed to the streets. Nonetheless, it is evident that the acknowledged goal of the COPS program is to add 100,000 officers to the streets, with the understanding that the initial awards of grant funding for these positions would be made through the year 2000:
The Inspector General states that all 100,000 officers will not be deployed to the streets by the year 2000 as if this fact indicates a weakness in the COPS program. The COPS Office has acknowledged, however, that the 100,000 officers will not be fully deployed by that time because of the lag time between funding an officer position or an equipment, technology, or civilian hiring project which results in the redeployment of a sworn officer and seeing the newly hired or redeployed officers on the street.
Where the Inspector General has made recommendations in the Audit as to how the COPS Office might strengthen its internal management or administrative procedures to help decrease the lag time between funding and deploying a new officer position, the COPS Office has taken or, in some cases, is continuing to take corrective action to address those areas, as discussed below. We must emphasize, however, that we require COPS grantees to follow their standard recruiting, hiring, and training procedures when hiring COPS officers. Many factors contribute to the acknowledged lag time between funding an officer position and seeing that officer deployed to the streets: established recruiting procedures; civil service requirements; academy training schedules; and the fact that the COPS Office will not authorize applicant agencies to hire pre-award in anticipation of receiving a COPS grant to ensure compliance with the nonsupplanting requirement.
The public would not be well served if we directed grantees to compromise their recruiting, hiring, or training procedures for new officers simply to demonstrate that the COPS program could result in officers on the street overnight. We do not support a practice of encouraging expedited officer recruiting, hiring, or training as a matter of program integrity, since we are committed to ensuring that COPS-funded officers are as qualified as locally-funded officers to provide law enforcement services to their communities.
In addition, we believe that grantees who receive funding to purchase equipment or technology or hire civilian support staff so that they may redeploy officers to the streets must be required to comply with their standard equipment or technology procurement procedures and civilian hiring requirements when implementing these projects. While these procedures also result in a significant lag time between funding the grant and seeing officers redeployed to the streets, they ensure that the COPS grant projects are implemented in accordance with applicable state or local requirements.
(2) Moving from 100,000 Funded Officers to 100,000 Deployed Officers
The COPS Office asserts that the Inspector General's concerns regarding the deployment of the 100,000 officers to the streets are unwarranted, for the reasons discussed below. For example, in some areas of program management or administration we have already taken steps to improve and strengthen our procedures to encourage the timely deployment of funded or redeployed officers. In other areas, however, we believe that the Inspector General's conclusions are based on fundamental misunderstandings of COPS procedures, grant requirements, or program goals.
Thus, we believe that the Inspector General's underlying analyses and broad conclusions regarding the deployment of 100,000 officers to the streets are inaccurate and reflect fundamental misunderstandings of the goal of the COPS program, the evaluation of basic COPS grant requirements, and the strength of support for the COPS program at the local level.
B. Monitoring COPS Grantees
The COPS Office and OJP are committed to monitoring COPS grantees to ensure that they comply with applicable programmatic, financial, and legal requirements. Both the COPS Office and OJP now dedicate specific staff divisions solely to grant monitoring activities. In addition, we have significantly improved our monitoring and enforcement of both programmatic and financial reporting requirements.
To strengthen and improve our monitoring efforts, the COPS Office and OJP have taken the following key steps:
C. Improving Guidance Regarding Essential Grant Requirements
The COPS Office is committed to providing its grantees with clear, easily understood guidance regarding federal grant requirements. We provide all grantees with COPS Grant Owner's Manuals, which explain the unique grant conditions for each program and include a list of other applicable resources regarding federal grant requirements. Every grantee is assigned a Grant Advisor whose role is to provide guidance to grantees by telephone or in writing regarding the implementation of COPS grant programs. The COPS Office Legal Division staff also provides guidance to grantees on legal requirements, such as the nonsupplanting requirement, by responding to grantee telephone calls and letters of inquiry and by publishing columns regarding frequently asked compliance questions in the COPS newsletter, which is distributed to all COPS grantees nationwide.
The COPS Office has also improved its guidance regarding essential grant requirements in the following ways:
In addition to this overview, we have attached responses to the ten specific Audit recommendations regarding program administration and management. As previously noted, the COPS Office strongly disagrees that the Inspector General's individual audits of 149 COPS and OJP grantees can be used to draw any broad conclusions about the COPS program, in part because the individual audit findings are the basis of an ongoing audit resolution process; we therefore disagree with those recommendations (#3, #4, and #10) which appear to be based in full or in part on the Inspector General's analysis of those 149 audits. While these recommendations may be valid suggestions for improving program management or administration, and while the COPS Office may have taken steps to address the concerns reflected in these recommendations, we cannot agree to the recommendations for the purposes of the audit resolution process in light of our disagreements with the analysis leading to these particular recommendations.
The COPS Office also disagrees with the Inspector General's recommendation (# 2) regarding waiting for signed grant awards before counting funded officer positions towards the 100,000 goal. As explained above in Section A(2), the COPS grant award announcements respond to individual grant applications for specific numbers of officers or for equipment, technology, or civilian hires which will result in the redeployment of a specific number of officers to the street. While the COPS Office disagrees with the Inspector General's recommendation in this regard, we have also taken affirmative steps to improve our procedures for obtaining signed awards from our grantees within the required time frames, which we believe should address the Inspector General's underlying concerns in this area of program management and administration.
We hope that our response to this Audit will lead to a better understanding of the COPS program goals and the steps that the COPS Office is taking to ensure that the COPS program meets its goal of adding 100,000 officers to the streets to enhance community policing initiatives, while ensuring grantee compliance with applicable program, legal, and financial grant requirements.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions concerning our response. We look forward to resolving and closing this Audit as soon as possible.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide this information.
Hyperlink to Response to Recommendations
1. The Inspector General summarizes its audits of 138 COPS grantees and 11 OJP grantees as part of the Audit. The 11 OJP grantees were part of the Police Hiring Supplement ("PHS") program, which was the forerunner to the COPS program and was administered by OJP. Like the COPS hiring grant programs, the PHS program provided federal funding to assist local law enforcement agencies in hiring and deploying new, additional officer positions to the streets.
2. The 1994 Crime Act, which establishes the COPS program, authorizes the COPS Office to continue making hiring grant awards through September 13, 2000. 42 U.S.C. §3796dd(k).
3. A copy of the President's remarks at the signing of the Crime Bill is attached at Tab 12.
4. Copies of the President's remarks and the related press release from May 12, 1999, are attached at Tab 13.
5. A detailed explanation of this policy may be found in response to Recommendation #2 at Tab 2.
6. Analyzing the same set of grant awards against the COPS Office's revised 90 day response period (which was revised from the previous 45 day response period to more accurately reflect the experience of grantees in obtaining the required signatures for the awards), only 707 grants for a total of 2,666 officer positions do not yet have signed awards as of July 1, 1999.
7. A detailed explanation of this process may be found in response to Recommendation #1 at Tab 1.
8. Detailed explanations of these procedures may be found in response to Recommendations #1 and #5 at Tabs 1 and 5, respectively.
9. Detailed explanations of these procedures may be found in response to Recommendations #1 and #5 at Tabs 1 and 5.
10. A detailed explanation of these actions may be found in response to Recommendation #3 at Tab 3.
11. For example, if a COPS MORE grantee receives grant funding to purchase an equipment or technology system such as an automated booking system, the grantee must agree to redeploy a certain number of officers into community policing as a result of the time saved from using the new equipment or technology. The grantee cannot redeploy those officers into community policing, however, until the grantee begins saving time through the use of the new equipment or technology. The time savings will not occur until the new system is purchased, installed, tested, and operational, and any required training has been completed. The COPS Office therefore does not require grantees to track the redeployment of sworn officers into community policing until the funded projected is fully implemented and operational.
12. Additional information regarding the COPS Office disagreements with the Inspector General individual grantee audit analyses may be found in our previous response to the Inspector General's summary of 149 COPS and OJP audits (the Police Hiring and Redeployment Grants Summary of Audit Findings from October 1996 to September 1998), which is attached at Tab 11.
13. A detailed explanation of these actions may be found in response to Recommendation #4 at Tab 4.
14. In four of the 28 audits, the COPS Office disagreed with the OIG's supplanting findings in part. Additional information regarding the COPS Office disagreements with the Inspector General individual grantee audit analyses may be found in our previous response to the Inspector General's summary of 149 COPS and OJP audits (the Police Hiring and Redeployment Grants Summary of Audit Findings from October 1996 to September 1998), which is attached at Tab 11.
15. A detailed description of these new procedures may be found in response to Recommendation #6 at Tab 6.
16. A detailed description of additional controls that OJP has implemented to ensure timely submission of Financial Status Reports may be found in response to Recommendation #8 at Tab 8.
17. A detailed description of these improvements may be found in response to Recommendation # 7 at Tab 7.
18. A detailed description of these improvements may be found in response to Recommendation #9 at Tab 9.
19. Additional information regarding the monitoring manual may be found in response to Recommendation #10 at Tab 10.