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Inseparable partners: Strategic planning and grants

During one of my college law enforcement strategic planning classes I was asked “Why is strategic planning so important for a police department. We know what we need!” The answer is yes, you know what we need but you have to test the data and evidence to prove you need it.  Most officers have a good gut feeling for what they need to make their job effective and efficient. But here is the rub…if you need to depend on your municipality and grant funding to provide the income for your department budget; you must provide sound justification for your budget request. Sounds simple enough, but let’s take a look at a larger view of strategic planning.

Planning begins both at the top and the bottom for all public entities. Local government reviews and assesses their needs the last quarter of each fiscal year.  All of the departments within that local government conduct a needs assessment to determine any changes needed for the next year’s budget.  At the same time each state must complete the same process. Our federal department all implement an assessment as well resulting in a plan for the next year. In the grant arena, all levels of law enforcement and public safety strategic plans within each state should have some alignment in strategies such as the JAG Grant strategy to reduce crime or prevent crime.

The Bureau of Justice just posted the “SAA Strategic Planning: Stakeholder Engagement Strategies” Report. This report summarizes the processes by which the State Administering Agencies conduct the assessment process and engage their partners to assess and plan for the reduction and prevention of crime in each state. Each state develops their own priorities and strategies for implementation based on their own needs. That is why grant priorities such as the JAG is has different priorities from state to state. The priorities of Pennsylvania are very different that those in California but all focus on the overarching Goal of the reduction and prevention of crime. 

The study found the following implications for SAA policy and practice

• SAAs have enhanced their outreach to non-traditional partners: public defense, state health and human service agencies, state and local non-profit service providers, victim service agencies and state departments of education.

• SAAs consider working with state and local professional associations as an engagement best practice and force multiplier.

This means that each police department much be engaged with their state associations to be a part of the process of influencing the future grant funding priorities within their state. They must also be engaged with their local non-traditional partners within their communities. Partnering between law enforcement and local service providers, schools, county agencies and other justice agencies and jurisdictions has been a best practice for some time.  By partnering with the local community everyone has greater access to grant funding opportunities.

Over the past three years the SAA have been participating in training and technical assistance programs for strategic planning. This report indicated that SAAs are spending more of their JAG funding to collect and analyze crime data. They are also devoting staffing to do more outreach for input and development of the state strategic plan. Your police departments contribution to this planning process can help assure that your needs are considered in the state process. The department can do that by fully assessing their own data, evaluating the performance of each policing strategy and doing complete needs assessment. In addition, a new emphasis is found within the federal and state grant funding announcements for each application to provide proven evidence-based practices with their application.

This brings us full circle back to your own department. Every department needs to do their due diligence in assessing the status of their performance measures and strategy outcomes. Start by asking things such as:

What are the department policing strategies and approaches outcomes and performance measurements?
How can we operate more effectively and efficiently?
What are our staffing needs for the upcoming three years?
What training and technical assistance is needed within the department?

A sound source of technical assistance for implementing an internal assessment may be found at the Center for Program Evaluation and Performance Measurement. This resource provides valuable tools for law enforcement including program evaluations, developing and working with program logic models, resources on evidence-based programs and much more.

In the current grant environment, the department with strong skills in strategic planning, assessment, program and project development will be the only department with grant funding.  All grant funding notices within the state and federal purview are requiring strategic planning, and proven evidence-based programming.  This is the future of grants. The smart department will learn how to complete and implement this process as soon as possible!

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