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How to secure grant funding for a new command center

If you work with other law enforcement or first responder agencies on a regional or even state-wide basis, you are more likely to be considered for the funding


A Fort Hood Police Mobile Command Center is stationed outside the Lawrence H. Williams Judicial Center during proceedings in the court martial of U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, in Fort Hood, Texas.

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Most law enforcement agencies don’t have existing budgets that can be applied for the purchase of expensive equipment like a mobile command center. Alternative sources of funding, such as private, federal, state or local grants are necessary. But how do you determine where to look?

The first step you need to take before looking for the most appropriate funding resource is determining what the command center will be used for. Is it for large critical incident response? SWAT callouts? Is it for a mobile communications unit during a disaster or other need? Or will it be for regional training exercises with multiple agencies involved?

A well-equipped mobile command center should be able to handle most of these situations as they arise, but when you are looking for funding, finding that key function will help lead you in the right direction toward finding a viable grant option.

Determine your need for a command center

No matter which funding option you find to best suit your agency’s needs, you still must be able to prove that the command center vehicle is necessary for you to solve a very serious problem. You have to be able to validate that your need is real by including facts and statistics. You must prove that your request is vital to the safety and security of the community you serve – and that the only way to solve those problems is with the vehicle.

A word of caution: Don’t make decisions about your mobile command center’s capabilities and equipment based on what funding is available. Trying to make a project fit a grant opportunity will not be beneficial to you since it actually may not suit your agency’s real need. You won’t be solving the problem you really have, which is why you should be seeking out grant funding.

Regional, state-wide utility

Projects that serve more than a single agency typically have a better chance of being funded. These days, for many grant requests, collaboration is the key for success. If you can work with other law enforcement or first responder agencies on a regional or even state-wide basis, you are more likely to be considered for the funding.

With a mobile command center, the ability to work across agencies is probably very strong, especially since not a lot of local police departments actually have this type of vehicle and its capabilities can serve a large number of needs. Before you decide to seek out grant funding for a command center that only you will use, check with other agencies to see if they have a similar need or would be willing to partner with your agency on the project.

Another great thing with collaborations is that your need statement will be stronger because you will serve many more people, and the problems that can be addressed with the vehicle will be far more substantial than any one agency will have. This could mean the difference between being funded or not.

State grants

For instance, emergency communications could be covered at the state level with 911 emergency communications funding. Equipping the command center with enough communications capabilities that can be used to ensure that those services will be a vital asset in times of crisis could be the link that connects you to this source of funding.

Federal grants

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is another area to consider when determining grants to apply for. If you are part of a regional task force that deals with homeland security issues, that funding could be a good fit. DHS grants are available at both the federal and state level.

Justice Assistance Grants from the U.S. Department of Justice could be another good option. These funds are provided to state and local jurisdictions by the federal government, typically based on crime numbers and population. Each state handles the disbursement and allocation of their JAG funds differently, so check with your state’s authorized representative agency on how that is done, if you aren’t already receiving those funds.

As you are looking for funds to purchase equipment, don’t forget the sustainability issue. Most grant applications require you to specify how you will continue your project once the funding has ended. It’s always a good idea to consider sustainability for every grant-funded project you apply for, even if the question isn’t asked in the application.

For something as large as a command center, the upkeep costs could be substantial over the years. That’s an important conversation to have with your command staff as you determine whether you want to apply for grant funds for the vehicle.

It may require a bit more research to find funding to purchase a mobile command center, but it’s definitely worth the work to make your community safer.

Linda Gilbertson is a Grant Professional with more than 15 years of experience writing and managing grants for both non-profit and government agencies. She has 12 years of law enforcement-related experience in grant writing, grant management, crime analysis, and research. She has been responsible for the acquisition of millions of dollars in federal, state and local grants during her career. Linda is also an award-winning journalist and has worked extensively with non-profit organizations in public relations and community education.