Want Funding for Security Upgrades? Prepare Now or Be Left Behind

I recently found out that most districts in Mississippi have not taken advantage of grants set aside by the state for school security officers. The legislature allocated $5 million for the Mississippi Community Oriented Policing Services in Schools grant program this spring, reports the Associated Press. Despite this, only $1.57 million of those grants were awarded. One reason why some of the districts chose not to participate was that their current officers don’t fulfill all of the roles that the grant program requires, such as teaching DARE or acting as liaisons with local youth courts.

Some of the districts didn’t want to – or couldn’t – complete the 13-page application. Others did not want to alter their current arrangements with local law enforcement agencies, or their current programs don’t call for officers in classroom roles. I’m calling attention to this situation not to pick on Mississippi, but because it highlights the challenges campuses across our nation seem to experience in obtaining funding for their security upgrades. Although more districts in Mississippi will probably take part in the grant progam in January, I suspect that in this case, both the state government and districts should take some responsibility for why more districts didn’t jump at the chance to participate in the f rst place.

On the state’s side, if its goal truly is to have districts use the funding for safety improvements, it must make the grant application process as easy as possible to understand and complete. It also should not create grant requirements that it knows or should know cannot be met by many or most of its potential applicants. I can understand that the grantor may want to use grants to encourage districts to adopt best practices, but whoever puts the program together must also be realistic and reasonable in what schools, districts and campuses can accomplish under their current circumstances.

The districts also need to look at how they are contributing to the problem. According to the AP article, many of them don’t have their officers mentor at-risk students. T is is one requirement of the Mississipppi grant. More importantly, not reaching out to at-risk students could very well mean that district law enforcement officers won’t be as ef ective because they aren’t developing relationships with the kids they are tasked with protecting. Anyone involved in campus policing should understand that the best source of intel on things like bullying and planned shootings is the student body.

Districts and/or campuses must be willing to jump through the hoops that local, state and federal government grantors create. Some of those hoops include requiring schools to have programs that foster good officer relationships with children, for obvious reasons.

Another way schools, districts and campuses of all kinds can meet grantor requirements is to complete risk/vulnerability assessments that demonstrate the need for better security. Unfortunately, 14% of the protection professionals in education who responded to our nationwide survey this summer indicate their campuses never conduct these studies. Another 43% of K-12 and college survey takers say they are not satisf ed with the number and frequency of their assessments (see Risk/Vulnerability Assessments on page 7). T is data clearly shows that many educational campuses aren’t getting themselves ready to apply for current and future grants. Sadly, the ones that aren’t doing assessments to justify their need for security improvements are probably the same districts or campuses that have the greatest need for upgrades. These challenges aren’t just associated with grants for police officers. They apply to funding for things like security technology and construction (which often includes security upgrades). What may be happening now in Mississippi and with other grants could be indications that many of our nation’s grant application processes are broken. It also indicates that there still are a signif cant percentage of campuses that are in desperate need of help when it comes to preparing and applying for safety and security funding.

Fortunately, there are resources available that will help K-12 districts, college campuses and hospitals conduct the assessments and develop the programs, partnerships and personnel required so they can apply for and win funding. One of those resources is the Yearbook that follows in the next 108 pages. Check out the latest data on important topics like police and security department staf ng, training and policies to see how your department measures up. Last year’s research on security technology can be found on CampusSafetyMagazine.com. Helpful how-tos from top manufacturers, a Web site showcase, a directory of security, public safety and emergency management vendors, as well as a list of industry associations and events are also included in the following pages. These companies can help your organization gather the appropriate information to verify your school’s or institution’s need for better security.

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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