How to Access Grant Funding for Pressing Law Enforcement Challenges

Bob Nilsson Director, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 6 Feb 2017

Federal and state grants can be a source of funding outside of the normal voter budget process. They can provide the resources for a valuable capability upgrade or a whole-new program with a high return. In some cases, a grant may provide the means to close a gap between the budget and what is needed to support, sustain and expand the agency needs.

Federal and state governments offer grants to encourage agencies to offer new services or to stimulate the economy. Private foundations and corporations use grant programs to help meet a public need and to fulfill their corporate responsibility. There are 26 federal organizations that manage over 900 grant programs totaling billions of dollars each year. Law enforcement agencies represent a large share of this government grant funding.


Here are sources of Federal law enforcement grants:

  • Department of Justice: Enforces the law and defends the interest of the United States.(
  • Office of Justice Programs (OJP) lists these funding opportunities
  • Department of Homeland Security: Prevents terrorist attacks within the United States and reduces America’s vulnerability to terrorism and minimize the damage from potential attacks and natural disasters. (
  • Department of Transportation: Ensure fast, safe, efficient, accessible, and convenient transportation. (
  • USDA’s Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program, provides affordable funding to develop essential community facilities in rural areas.

 The Funding Process

Federal grants are administered either as direct disbursements or pass-through funds. For direct disbursements, grantees apply directly to the Federal funder. With pass-through funding, the funds are first distributed to the states and grantees must apply to their State Administrative Agency (SSA).

Formula grants involve amounts that are calculated by a formula, and the actual funding amounts vary. The formulas may be based on factors such as population, census data, and local violent crimes rates. These are examples of formula grants: Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, Juvenile Justice Accountability Block Grants Program, Office of Violent Crime VOCA Compensation Formula grants.

Discretionary/competitive grants are awarded directly to eligible recipients on a competitive basis. Applications are reviewed and scored based on program criteria outlined in the grant solicitation.

Congressionally-directed earmarks are determined at the legislative level. Agencies must apply through their local Congressional representative or state rep to obtain these funds.

With reimbursement programs a jurisdiction can qualify for reimbursement funding for designated purposes, such as incarcerating illegal aliens, prosecuting or detaining federal defendants or purchasing bulletproof vests.

Grant Requirements

Before applying for a grant, make sure your agency has the resources to manage the grant and to deliver the results. Many grants operate on a reimbursement basis, meaning you must use your own cash resources to cover your expenses upfront, then file for reimbursement, which can take months to receive. Other grants require matching funds or partnerships and collaborations.

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Completing the Grant Application

When you have selected a grant that meets your needs, carefully plan out your proposal writing process. What resources will you need? What are the deadlines and milestones? What staff is required in terms of accountants, lawyers, project manager, and outside consultants? Consider hiring an experienced grant proposal writer.

System validations and registrations may be needed for your grant. Federal reimbursements require a qualified accounting system. Here are resources for finding and registering for grants:  

  •          System for Awards Management (SAM)
  •          DUNS number – Data Universal Numbering System, from Dun & Bradstreet
  •          Grants Management System (GMS)

Suggested flow for your grant narrative

  • Introduce your organization.
  • Statement of need. Describe the problem or concern and why this is important.
  • How will you meet the need; what is your approach?
  • Method of evaluation. How you will validate your project.
  • Project timeline with milestones. How long will it take to meet the need?
  • Credentials- Proof that your team is well-qualified.
  • Mandatory documents may include: IRS determination letter, board of directors or command staff and their affiliations, previous fiscal year audit, most recent IRS form 990, organizational budget, program budget

You can strengthen your proposal with extra supporting material in an appendix, such as brochures, newsletter, photographs, annual reports, and letters of support.

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