From 7,272 Applications to 1,046 Awards: The CHRP Scoring and Capping Process
When the application period for the COPS Hiring Recovery Program (CHRP) closed on April 14, 2009, more than 7,200 applications requesting more than $8 billion had been submitted. With $1 billion available, the COPS Office was faced with the task of establishing policies and procedures for distributing the funding in a manner that would meet both the expectations of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as well as the underlying statute and historic mission of the COPS Office. Beginning with the design of a data-driven application form through the capping of awards, the process has placed objectivity and balance at the forefront.
The COPS Office focused on balancing the need for federal assistance and the intent of the Recovery Act, as measured by economic and fiscal health questions, with the crime rate and community policing indicators that assist in measuring public safety and law enforcement needs. The decision was made to balance the two categories of factors equally. Additionally, multiple models were developed and tasked to determine the balance between questions within each broad category. For example, within the 50 percent of the score allocated to the need for federal assistance. Both measures of acute financial distress and recent economic conditions as well as those of systemic socioeconomic health were taken into consideration. Since this was the first time that some of these indicators were being used to score applications, the COPS Office also queried a number of the submitted applications. Then internal specialists followed up with applicants and publically available data on more than 270,000 data points in the applications to ensure that the information was as error-free as possible before completing the scoring protocol.
Once the applications were scored, the next question faced was whether each department would be allocated the money needed to hire all the officers it requested. The application process had not imposed a cap on requests, which allowed us to collect valuable information on the true needs of law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. In looking at the applications and seeing indications of demonstrable need deep into the rankings, it was concluded that more agencies would be served by a cap that would limit the size of awards; otherwise a very small number of agencies would have consumed all the available funding. The COPS Office instituted an award cap of 5 percent of the actual currently sworn force strength (measured in full-time equivalents) up to a maximum of 50 officers. This cap ensures that the most agencies can be funded without reducing any particular award to a level where it no longer represents a meaningful increase in staffing levels.
Finally, two long-standing statutory requirements designed to ensure national distribution of COPS Office funding had an impact on which applications were ultimately funded. First, the COPS Office must distribute half of all hiring funds to agencies serving populations of more than 150,000 and half to those of fewer than 150,000. Recognizing this split, applicants were split into these two groups before scoring even began, so large cities did not directly compete with small communities for CHRP funding. Second, by law the COPS Office must ensure that at least ½ of 1 percent of hiring funds (in this case $5 million) is allocated to each state or territory with eligible applicants. Although this ultimately means that sometimes a lower scoring applicant in one state receives funding ahead of a higher scoring applicant in another, this requirement helps ensure that smaller states and territories are not shut out of the funding.
From the day the Recovery Act was signed, the COPS Office concentrated on building a system for reviewing applications that would ensure fairness and objectivity. Throughout the decision-making process the COPS Office conducted extensive research on measuring key indicators, including outreach to other federal grant makers, policing practitioners, criminologists, and public finance experts. With the unprecedented numbers of applications, the emphasis placed on collecting publically verifiable data and using analytical software programs to score applications was central to our ability to distribute the CHRP funding in a timely manner. Readers who have additional questions about the CHRP scoring and capping process are welcome to explore the resources available on the COPS Office web site at www.cops.usdoj.gov/Default.asp?Item=2208 or call the COPS Office Response Center at 800.421.6770.