City government budgets are tight these days, so budget cuts in law enforcement agencies are often inevitable. Since it is sometimes difficult to measure the value of training, it is often the first item cut, leaving agencies struggling to afford the extensive training their officers need. Cutting training hours can leave officers unprepared for dangerous situations, putting officers, agencies and communities at risk.

In a recent study conducted my PowerDMS and the Police Foundation, only 26 percent of agencies who responded feel they have the budget needed to afford the amount of training they think is necessary. And 45 percent reported they are looking for ways to extend training budgets for supplemental training.

Here are a few ideas to help stretch those training dollars:

Apply for grants and government programs

There are millions of dollars of law enforcement grants available every year through local, state and federal government programs and private organizations. About 40 percent of the State of Policy in Law Enforcement survey respondents said their agency was able to obtain a grant to conduct supplemental training.

Many state Peace Officer Standard Training (POST) commissions provide financial assistance for in-service and specialized training. The U.S. Department of Justice offers grants through agencies such as the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the Office of Justice Programs. Law enforcement agencies can search sites such as the Bureau of Justice Assistance and in order to find grants that fit the specific needs of their agencies and get advice on writing grant applications.

Team up with other agencies and organizations for specialized training

One way to reduce training costs is to partner with nearby agencies to share trainers and materials in order to offer more robust, specialized training. Small agencies can also consider partnering with universities or corporations who may have space available in general training courses such as communication, management and leadership skills.

These partnerships can significantly reduce the dollars spent per trainee. Statistics from the Department of Justice estimate that municipal police academies spend about $36,000 per trainee, while regional and state academies spend $11,000 and university or technical school academies spend $4,600.

Invest in online training resources

Online training has some costs up front, but in the long term, it can save agencies hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime pay, travel time and instructor fees. Instead of having officers sit in classrooms reading PowerPoint presentations, law enforcement agencies should consider moving all repetitive content to a service such as PowerDMS. This will reduce in-person hours and allow officers to access training courses and resources on their own time from anywhere. PowerDMS also offers online testing to test comprehension immediately, and provides agency administrators with in-depth training records for every officer.

Shrinking law enforcement budgets don’t have to hurt the quality of training. As law enforcement agencies navigate budget cuts, they should get creative with ways to stretch training dollars, build partnerships and create robust online training programs.

To see more interesting trends in training, click here to download the full State of Policy in Law Enforcement report.