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Writing technology purchases into your grant proposals
I am sure that you're like me, during your patrol you might think of ways to make your jobs easier and faster. In some of my earlier articles I explained a few of the methods I use to make my workday easier with the help of technology. During my work experience as a civilian I learned that technology decisions are usually made by someone who is probably not always directly affected by the technology decision they are making. Sometimes their decision is productive and sometimes it can be counterproductive. In either instance it affects the worker. A little research on the part of a person directly working with the technology can go a long way in clarifying miscommunications about to how and what the worker (the officer) needs from his or her technology.
Recently my county was awarded a grant that will have a positive effect on how we conduct our workday as patrol officers. The award was a technology grant that will greatly help law enforcement agencies in our county. The outcome of this grant will allow the affected agencies to communicate with dispatch and each other faster and with software that is more user friendly than the usual DOS looking text some of are accustomed to now.
Just “Google” the term “Law Enforcement grants” and you’ll come up with a handful of sites that will help you. Of course, there is the Department of Justice (DOJ) Web site (at http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) site (at http://www.dhs.gov/). Both Web sites announce different types of grants and offer a search to find a particular grant or grants. One Web site you might not think of right away (but should) is right in front of you: PoliceOne.
Surf around on PoliceGrantsHelp (at http://www.policegrantshelp.com/) for a while and you’ll see that there are a great number of grants that agencies can apply for. In this article I’m addressing technology because that is what I write about, and in some ways can affect law enforcement the most. Technology can be a huge benefit if planned correctly or can be a great hindrance if poorly planned. When I say “technology” I mean everything from the laptops in your squad to the servers to which they connect when you pull into the lot behind the station (and everything in between, like the Wi-Fi routers that get the data from the car to the servers in your station and the software you use to write reports).
Some of you may have written grants before, some may not have. Either way, you must be aware that when applying for grants you must understand the applying agency must meet certain criteria. Once you find a grant you have to realize that grants have a cycle — they expire — so time is of the essence. Some require that the applying agency to match some (or all) funds. For example crime rate, demographics, and population is considered when your grant is reviewed. Grant selection is very competitive and as we all know with the current recession, many agencies are looking at grants for funding personnel, technology, and equipment needs.
Department size can affect which agency is awarded a grant award but senior agency leadership interest and local government funding are also needed for a successful award. Most important is the way a grant is written. Both the DOJ and the DHS regularly announce grants. They also offer online training, conduct sessions or seminars throughout the country on how to write a successful grant.
A few words here to explain some steps in making a technology upgrade decision. This explanation is brief. Many steps are involved in getting computer and/or software live and running. I am just giving you an idea of what to consider before deciding.
Before taking any steps I suggest to take inventory of the current technological inventory i.e. computer servers, computer work stations, mobile computer terminals (MCT’s), etc. Once the inventory is complete then figure out what your needs are and why. For example, is the current system in place compatible with your report software? How will the upgrade affect current computers? Something to think about; current computers have a life span of two to three years. In simple terms, once the warranty is expired on the computer it has lost its value. If it breaks then it needs to be replaced anyway. Other things to consider, is the current computer server large enough in capacity to allow transferring the current data and is it large enough to grow. As we all know data is ever growing. Does the server you have in your station have the ability to grow (in tech vernacular that word is "scale")?
The next thing to consider is how many licenses (computers) do you have and need. For example, Microsoft software has a set of numbers. These numbers are the license. The license allows a particular computer to legally operate, produce documents, databases and spreadsheets. Microsoft allows companies, government offices and other businesses to buy open licenses that allow your IT department to legally install software in mass.
Once you have ideas and numbers, contact the software company you are considering. The company in most cases will have a developer contact you and ask you several questions. The developer will have their IT department contact your IT department. Keep in mind the many steps have already been taken by the time this happens. For example, when I worked in the computer software field I would call the senior IT person and tell them what the requirements were for our software package. I would also send the list of the requirements. These requirements were to be completed before I would consider installing the software in their system. These requirements included computer capacity, memory (RAM) size and software needed to properly operate the software I was installing for them.
This is only a brief explanation of what goes on behind the scenes once you are awarded a grant that allows your agency to upgrade your computer system or software. As officers, some of us do not know what steps were taken to get your new computer or software. But as officers we can have an impact on the types of technology our department is considering. All we need to do is talk with the people involved in the grant process (and that stuff is happening right now, somewhere in your department) about the things we know to be important. Keep in mind many hours of development, research, communications, and decisions have been made before a computer is turned on and the new software goes “live.”