4 Ways to Extend Law Enforcement Training Dollars

Learn how to get funding for training and use your training budget as optimally as possible.

December 23, 2020

Article highlights

City government budgets are tight these days, so budget cuts in law enforcement agencies are often inevitable.

Unfortunately, important aspects of policing like training sometimes don’t survive these budget cuts. This can leave agencies struggling to afford the extensive training their officers need to do their jobs well.

Cutting training hours can leave officers unprepared for dangerous situations, ultimately putting officers, agencies, and communities at risk.

For this reason, law enforcement training – though it can be costly and time-consuming – simply isn’t optional.

If compliance, safety, and professionalism are priorities in your department, you will need to implement and maintain a solid training program.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to both stay mindful of your budgetary restrictions and protect your law enforcement training program, many of which other departments are already exploring.

In our 2017 State of Policy report, 78% of agencies said they have an increased need for training. However, only 33% of departments said they had the budget they need to afford the necessary training.

This means two-thirds of departments we surveyed are looking for new ways to extend their training budget. If you, too, are seeking practical ways to stretch your training dollars, here are a few suggestions.

1. Explore Grants and Other Government Funding Programs

Grants and other government programs may be worth looking into for your agency’s training 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% of the State of Policy in Law Enforcement respondents said their agency was able to obtain a grant to conduct supplemental training.

Depending on your specific need, grants can cover a number of aspects of your department’s training operations.

For example, Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, offers funding for community policing efforts.

Every year, COPS awards $3.5 million in a variety of grants to community-policing organizations. Any training related to community policing and public safety could fall under this funding.

In addition, the National Institute of Justice provides funding for both new and surplus law enforcement equipment. There are some limitations for what these grants can cover, which are listed on the website.

Most of these grants are for individual categories of equipment, such as body armor or equipment related to counter-terrorism or counter-drug efforts.

If you are looking for specific grants in other areas, visit the Office of Justice Programs and the U.S. Department of Justice for other opportunities.

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2. Team Up With Other Local Agencies

You may also want to consider teaming up with other agencies, both nearby police forces and other public safety agencies, like fire departments.

The benefit of partnering with other agencies is twofold. First, you can develop stronger relationships in your community when you work together.

You will also be able to save quite a bit of money by sharing resources. Each is a long-term investment in your department and community as a whole.

For example, the Elgin, IL fire department and police department partnered in purchasing a drone for their city. While each agency had different reasons for using the drone, they found that sharing the cost burden made things much easier.

And along the way, the two departments developed a unique rapport and trust, ultimately working together more effectively down the line.

Share training instructors and classes

By pooling your resources to conduct training, you can stretch your dollars and benefit your community.

Joint training and scenario-based exercises could train agencies how to work individually and together in high-stakes situations. You may also want to consider a trainer exchange, sharing expertise across agencies.

According to Police Magazine, "Both trainers will gain the added experience and diversity of information that is bound to occur in such a deal, and both departments will get the training they need without having to train more instructors."

Partnering with equipment manufacturers who provide training is also an option.

Police Magazine recommends connecting with vendors to host training at your jurisdiction.

By holding the equipment training at your agency, you may be able to secure a few free training seats for your officers, especially those in leadership.

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Share space, equipment and resources

Like the Elgin Departments, you can team up with another local agency to purchase shared equipment or technology and attend the training together.

Another option is to pool your resources to rent space in shooting ranges for your firearms training.

3. Conduct Online Training Courses

Bringing your training efforts online could also be a substantial time and money-saver for your department. Law enforcement training has many facets, many of which you can easily conduct online.

For example, firearms and scenario-based training are field-based and hands-on. Policy training, on the other hand, would be more cost-effective online.

With a software tool like PowerDMS, you can do as much of your training as you would like online. This way, your officers can train anytime, anywhere, which ultimately saves your department money on classroom and instructor costs.

You can also save money (and the environment) by reducing supplies, which as you know can stack up very quickly with traditional classroom training.

As a bonus, training your department online enables you to customize each course based on what your officers actually need to learn.

PowerDMS has a customizable testing functionality that allows you to confirm what your officers know and don’t know.

You can save time, energy and money on future training by shaping your training curriculum accordingly.

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.

For example, at one point, everyone in the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office would sit through three days of classroom training. This culminated in about $150,000 of overtime annually.

But when the department made the switch to online training, they saved $87,000 in a year.

4. Work With Your Insurer or Risk Pool

At the end of the day, training keeps your officers and agency safe and compliant with your policies and procedures. So it makes sense that with better training, you can drastically reduce your agency’s risk of litigation.

Some agencies have been able to receive funding for training from their risk pool or insurer since training is an important, if not crucial, aspect of civil liability and employee safety.

It’s worth approaching your insurer to learn about resources available for training officers in high-risk areas.

These areas can include but are not limited to use of force, motor vehicle operations and arrest practices.

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Investing In Your Department and Community

No matter how you go about extending your law enforcement training budget, you will never regret investing in your department.

It may take some creativity to tackle budgetary issues on the front end. But taking the time and money necessary to maintain a culture of compliance and safety is a worthy investment with ongoing return.

Your officers – and your community – will be better for your efforts.

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