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How to get grant funding for police simulation training

De-escalation training is more important than ever for law enforcement, and grants can help your department add an interactive, scenario-based approach

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Grant funding can help your department purchase a training simulator to help prepare officers more effectively for critical situations.


Sponsored by VirTra

By Samantha Dorm for Police1 BrandFocus

When the goal is to provide today’s law enforcement and criminal justice personnel with current, relevant and quality de-escalation and use-of-force training as determined by research and needs assessments, how will departments faced with tight budgets – made even tighter with projected shortfalls due to the pandemic – cover the expense of reaching this goal?

Despite current events arising from COVID-19 and calls to “defund the police,” we cannot afford to sacrifice officer preparedness to real-life incidents. The demands on law enforcement to make critical decisions in tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving situations require an approach that focuses on decision-making. Interactive, judgmental use-of-force simulation training, such as that provided by VirTra, helps prepare officers so they can respond safely in real-life incidents.

Protesters and public safety leaders may have different ideas about budget priorities, but most are in agreement about the value of de-escalation and mitigation training. How, then, to make sure budgets reflect the importance of training when competing for dollars to cover salaries, benefits and other essentials of the job?

This article will help you learn how to secure funds for judgmental use-of-force simulation training to help address public concerns and prepare officers to make the split-second decisions required on the job.

Federal Criminal Justice Grants

The most popular source of federal grants funding for law enforcement is the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program. Under the FY2020 solicitation, JAG funds may be used to provide additional personnel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, training, technical assistance and information systems for criminal justice.

There are two types of JAG funding: local and state. If your agency does not receive a local allocation, you can still apply for funding through your State Administering Agency. Each SAA is required to have a three- to five-year strategic plan that outlines the funding priorities for their state. If the document is not readily available online, reach out to your SAA to request a copy. The plan will often contain statistics and information that could help to bolster your application for funds under this competitive process.

Local JAG funds are noncompetitive. Departments on the allocation list are required to submit applications detailing how they will utilize the funding, according to the eligible categories (listed here). Check out the FY2020 local allocation list (by state) here.

Note: Changes have been made to the FY2020 application. Departments are encouraged to read the JAG guidelines in their entirety, paying special attention to the requirements associated with acceptance of the funds.

While JAG is the most popular funding source for law enforcement, it is not the only source of funding. If your department pursues funds only from the traditional criminal justice funding streams, there will often be stipulations to include a research component, or to incorporate the funding request into a programmatic approach.

This means that your department will need to add components to the funding request, such as providing firearms safety courses to civilians, or to incorporate a program to reduce use of force that may involve partnering with a college or university for a multi-year evaluation of the effectiveness of the training.

Resources for “programmatic” grants are often found under the National Institute of Justice or through the Bureau of Justice Assistance. There may also be funding available under the Community Oriented Policing grants for community policing development.

Alternatives to Criminal Justice Funds

If you are new to the world of grants, there may be questions about who the “stakeholders” would be in your community. Simply put, who has a vested interest in helping to keep the community safe? A review of the stakeholders may open the doors to additional funding options.

Protection of critical infrastructure often falls under Homeland Security initiatives. Ensuring school safety and security and the response to active shooter situations may be covered under the Department of Education in collaboration with the Bureau of Justice Assistance. But don’t count out resources from your state and local health department, community and economic development initiatives and private or corporate foundations.

As 2020 progresses, more funders are stepping up to fund social justice initiatives. Take full advantage of the available opportunities to enhance officer training. Ask local businesses about financial assistance. A few examples of corporate funders are listed below:

For additional support, the PoliceGrantsHelp team is ready to provide assistance.

Partnerships Receive Priority Consideration

Many of the government grant opportunities prioritize partnerships, so working with other agencies or community groups can be a smart strategy to secure funding. For example, the VirTra simulation training is the perfect opportunity to partner with other agencies because it can be a shared resource, as well as a good way to show citizens how officers train. Multiple law enforcement agencies partnering on a grant application will enhance your application and increase your chances of getting funded.

Partnerships can also open your agency up to grant opportunities that aren’t necessarily criminal justice focused. An example of this would be a grant that is targeted toward school safety where the school district is the applicant. VirTra offers training for active shooter scenarios that can be used for school safety initiatives. In this scenario, the school district may be able to use funding to purchase the police simulator technology to train local law enforcement.

Get creative when forging these relationships. Through V-VICTA – its Virtual Interactive Coursework Training Academy – VirTra offers a range of nationally-certified training courses that naturally lend themselves to community partnerships, including autism awareness, COVID-19 interactions and mental health events. Training is more important than ever in law enforcement, and grants can help your department purchase effective tools to help prepare officers to make critical decisions in the field.

For more information, visit VirTra and PoliceGrantsHelp.

Read Next: 4 ways simulation can boost your agency’s training efforts

Samantha L. Dorm is a senior grant consultant for Lexipol, serving, and PoliceGrantsHelp. She first began working as a consultant for the grants division of Praetorian Digital (now Lexipol) in 2010. Dorm has been instrumental in providing grant writing guidance to various public safety and non-profit agencies throughout the United States to enable them to obtain alternative funding as well as provide instruction on statistical compilation, analysis and program development. Dorm is a reviewer for several federal agencies and also instructs grant writing workshops.

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