Police Corps

Some Problems Resolved, But Most Positions Remain Unfilled Gao ID: GGD-00-69 February 22, 2000

The Police Corps program was established to help local and state law enforcement agencies increase the number of officers with advanced education and training assigned to community patrol. The program offers competitive scholarships of up to $7,500 a year with a lifetime maximum of $30,000 to college students who agree to earn a Bachelor's Degree and then agree to serve as police officers on a beat for a least four years. GAO found that the Police Corps program has gotten off to a slower-than-expected start, and most participant slots remained unfilled. As of September 1999, about 43 percent of the 1,007 positions funded for fiscal years 1996 through 1998 had been filled. This situation was due to various causes, from the failure of the Community Oriented Policing Services Office to provide federal administrative funds and adequate staffing for the program to the fact that the Police Corps statute did not provide funding for states' administrative and recruiting costs. The Community Oriented Policing Services Office transferred the Office of the Police Corps to the Office of Justice Programs in December 1998. Although the Office of Justice Programs has made significant progress in obligating funds and establishing interagency agreements with the participating states, it is too soon to tell whether the Office of Justice Programs will succeed in filling more participant slots and continue to provide guidance.

GAO noted that: (1) the Police Corps program got off to a slower than expected start resulting in the majority of participant slots remaining unfilled; (2) as of September 30, 1999, 433 of the 1,007 participant positions funded for fiscal years 1996 through 1998 had been filled; (3) according to federal and state officials, two of the factors that contributed to this slow start were as follows: (a) COPS dedicated insufficient staff to the Police Corps program, which led to delays in providing program guidance, processing program applications and payments, and answering participants' questions about the program; and (b) the Police Corps statute did not provide funding to pay states' costs for program administration or for recruitment and selection of program participants; (4) COPS operation of the Police Corps as a direct reimbursement program made determining program status difficult, as it slowed the rate at which funds were obligated; (5) according to a DOJ official, COPS based its decision to operate the Police Corps program as a direct reimbursement program on the language of the statute; (6) under direct reimbursement, funds were not considered obligated when state plans were approved; (7) instead, COPS considered funds obligated only when an individual check had been sent to a college or university, in-service Police Corps officer, approved law enforcement training provider, or participating police department; (8) on December 10, 1998, responsibility for the Police Corps program was transferred from COPS to OJP; (9) OJP devoted seven full-time staff positions to process program applications and payments and respond to participant queries faster; (10) under the authority granted OJP under 42 U.S.C. 3788(b), which allowed OJP to enter into interagency agreements with states on a reimbursable basis, OJP opted, through the use of such agreements, to make a formula payment that can be used to help defray states' recruiting and administrative costs; (11) this authority was not available to COPS; (12) while these interagency agreements only recently went into effect, they should make money more readily available to states trying to implement their Police Corps programs; (13) as of September 30, 1999, OJP had obligated $51.3 million of the $82.4 million available to the program; and (14) it is too early to determine the effects of the transfer of the Police Corps program from COPS to OJP on the factors contributing to the slow start.

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