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How Dynamic Data Collection Tools Can Make Your Agency A Stronger Candidate for Grant Funding

Megan McDonough  | 07 January 2020  |  5 minute read


Key Takeaways:

  • Billions of dollars in federal grant money are available to law enforcement agencies each year.
  • Dynamic Records Management, Computer Aided Dispatch, and Analytics software systems can be utilized to track data and generate statistics, helping an agency compete for grant funding. 
  • Easily accessible and reportable data can help an agency meet the performance measurement requirements that may be included with the grant.

There are many factors, often beyond the control of police leadership, that influence a department’s budget for the year: the health of the economy, state and local tax revenue, and political priorities, to name a few. Grant money from public and private entities can provide a critical financial lifeline to some departments, and in other cases generate opportunities for departments to test out new programs, equipment, or technology that they might not otherwise have access to. 

For departments that want to be competitive in the various grant application processes, having access to a dynamic reporting and analytics system that tracks performance metrics and generates statistics can be a game changer. Timely, comprehensive statistics can empower your agency to make a data-driven case in support of why you need grant funding. Additionally, these analytic tools can be utilized to document and assess the performance metrics that many funding sources require once the grant money has been awarded. 

Federal Grants 

There are two main types of grants offered by the federal government that provide funding to law enforcement: formula grants and discretionary grants.  1

  • Formula grants are awards for which applicants are judged on set statistical criteria, and for which the award amounts are determined by a formula 2 (e.g. Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grants 3). The award formulas can include factors such as population, census data, violent crime data, and annual appropriation provided by Congress 4. 

Sometimes local agencies can apply directly for formula grant funding, however accessing certain pools of money may require applying through a state administrative agency.

  • Discretionary grants are awards that are allocated through a competitive review process based on applicants’ eligibility and the quality and merit of their proposal 5 (e.g. Strategies for Policing Innovation initiative 6).   

Much of the federal formula and discretionary grant funding allotted to law enforcement is made available through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). DOJ has three grant making entities: the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW). In fiscal year 2019 these three arms offered the eligible applicant subcategory of “law enforcement” a total available funding pool of over $1.7 billion through 70 different solicitations with more than 2,300 potential awards 7. 

This funding was offered to advance goals such as: supporting law enforcement and public safety activities in state, local, and tribal jurisdictions; providing training and technical assistance; assisting victims; conducting research; and implementing programs that improve the criminal, civil, and juvenile justice systems 8.

Beyond DOJ, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also funds law enforcement agency activity through entities such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA provides funding to support its mission areas of prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. In FY 2019, FEMA had $1.095 billion of funds available under the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) to provide funding for “states, territories, urban areas, and local and tribal governments to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from potential terrorist attacks and other hazards. 9 Unlike DOJ grants however, funding through HSGP is tied to a jurisdictions relative risk of terrorism 10.

Additional grant funding for law enforcement may be available through federal entities other than DOJ and DHS, and can be found at

Performance Measures

Many funding entities require grantees to provide performance measurements that demonstrate progress being made toward the goals and objectives that were outlined in the initial grant proposal. 

Recipients of federal funds typically must provide routine measures related to work funded directly or indirectly by the awarded solicitation; these metrics document progress, and can assist the awarding agency in tracking its own outcomes. These performance measures are detailed in the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993 (Pub.L. 103-62); the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010, (Pub.L. 111-352); and the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, (2 CFR 200.328). 11

For federal grants, the required performance measurements are usually outlined in the appendix of the original solicitation. Upon being awarded funding, an agency should determine what data needs to be collected — statistics, narrative text, or other metrics that can be used to answer the required performance questions. Award recipients will be expected to have a plan for collecting this data in a reliable, consistent way. 

Access to a dynamic records and case management system is one way to execute on this. For example, a Records Management System (RMS) like Mark43 can assist with routine reporting by adding custom temporary fields such as event statistics (Figure 1). These data points can enable officers to indicate on reports when they are engaging in activity related to a specific grant or funding stream. At then end of each reporting period, the funded agency can run queries based on this information to pull the required statistics.

Figure 1. Mark43 RMS Event Statistics can be configured by a department admin, and can be used for a limited or extended period, as needed.


Agencies can also benefit from having access to configurable data dashboards (Figure 2). These can be set up so that they automatically run statistics using data from an agency’s Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) or RMS systems on a regular basis. By automating this process, the burden associated with grant performance measurement can be largely mitigated. Additionally, running metrics in this way can reduce the likelihood of human error, forgetting to report, or inconsistency in reporting.

Figure 2. Using an analysis program that is embedded within a CAD/RMS, such as Mark43 Analytics, can reduce the amount of administrative effort, and risk for error, when regularly reporting out performance metrics to a grant monitor.


Competitive Edge

A successful competitive grant application has typically made a compelling case that there exists a problem, need, or opportunity that the available funds would be able to address or solve. This case may be bolstered by the use of statistics and other data from within the applicant agency. While it is certainly possible to describe a problem with words alone, supplementing with data and illustrative graphics indicating a change over time, or comparing the agency’s situation to similar agencies or municipalities, can make the argument even more powerful. As with performance metrics, access to a performant analytics tool within your CAD/RMS reduces the level of effort required to provide these statistics or generate charts, and decreases the likelihood of human error, or data quality issues. 

Further, by including robust statistical information in the initial application, it demonstrates to the reviewers that you are already able to collect, maintain, and analyze data, and therefore have the capacity to dutifully track any required outcomes or performance measures tied to the grant funding.


Federal grant funding can provide a critical lifeline or resource to police departments of all sizes. It can create opportunities to engage in new or innovative initiatives, or fill an outstanding need. Each year there are many funding streams, and a large pot of federal grant money made available to law enforcement agencies. Proactively subscribing to web resources such as Grants.Gov can ensure that you and your agency are aware of any grants for which you may be eligible as soon as they are released. Utilizing comprehensive data collection, analysis, and performance measurement resources can make certain that you are able to put your best, most competitive foot forward when that time comes.

  1.  In addition to grant funding, other federal funding is also available through avenues such as congressionally directed awards, cooperative agreements, and payment programs.
  10. Section 2006 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, codified as amended at 6 U.S.C. § 607, DHS/FEMA is required to ensure that at least 25 percent of grant funding appropriated for grants awarded under HSGP’s authorizing statute is used for law enforcement terrorism prevention activities.

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