Law Enforcement, Protective Services Professions Get a Boost from Stimulus Funding

An El Paso Sector Border Patrol agent and recruiter discusses the application process at a 2010 job fair. Photo by Melissa M. Maraj
An El Paso Sector Border Patrol agent and recruiter discusses the application process at a 2010 job fair. Photo by Melissa M. Maraj

The recession has cut so deeply into our economy that even the professions that keep us and our property safe have experienced hiring freezes and layoffs. But there is good news for law-enforcement and security professionals: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 includes about $4 billion for state and local law-enforcement assistance programs. These funds will create or save thousands of well-paying jobs in 2009 and beyond. States and localities have applied for all sorts of uses of the money, but most of the funds will go toward putting more police on the streets and other bread-and-butter law-enforcement programs. The funding comprises:

  • $1 billion to employ local patrol officers through the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. The initial goal of this program, enacted during the Clinton administration, was to put an additional 100,000 patrol officers on the streets.
  • $2 billion for Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants, which are allocated based on need to state and local law-enforcement agencies.
  • $225 million for Byrne competitive grants to fund crime prevention and justice administration programs, victim support services and related activities.
  • $540 million for five additional programs: rural law enforcement, Southern border enforcement, victim compensation, tribal law enforcement and the task force on Internet crimes against children.

Law Enforcement Jobs Created or Saved Even as grant applications are being processed, the jockeying for law-enforcement jobs has begun. "If anyone is interested in a job in law enforcement, now is the time to make contact," says Margaret Stark, a grant consultant who works with law-enforcement agencies. "Police departments are actively taking applications and doing interviews." Stimulus funding for law enforcement and security will create jobs for patrol officers jobs as well as positions in many other occupations. "The funding will save or create

new office positions, as well as jobs for dispatchers, crime scene investigators, database and forensic experts, and all sorts of other opportunities," says Andrea Mournighan, director of governmental affairs at the National Association of Police Organizations. Will law-enforcement agencies tend to hire entry-level officers, or rehire veterans laid off due to budget cuts? It's a tough decision. Laid-off police officers bring invaluable experience to the job; however, rehiring them is more expensive than hiring at the entry level, because COPS grants cover entry-level pay. In some cases, collective bargaining agreements will be the deciding factor. "It varies partly according to whether union contracts require rehiring before new hires," Stark says. "The Northeast is more unionized, the South less so." Jobs created through the COPS program are federally funded for three years, with the locality guaranteeing funding for a fourth year. After that, funding will depend on local and state budgets. And with budget crises blanketing the nation, competition among law-enforcement agencies for money is keen. So it's likely that many requests for stimulus funding will be denied. "Some 7,200 agencies have applied for stimulus funding for 40,000 jobs, but the COPS program only has funding for 5,000 to 6,000 jobs," Mournighan says.

Diverse Jobs in Federal Law Enforcement and Security More jobs in law enforcement and security will be created at the federal level, thanks to Recovery Act funding or other appropriations. The variety of federal jobs in the field is enormous. "The security of our ports, airports and borders is in discussion every day, so there really is an opportunity to come in and make a difference and find meaningful work," says Tim McManus, a vice president at the Partnership for Public Service. "The depth and breadth of jobs is great, from intelligence analysts to correctional officers and air marshals." Regardless of when or whether immigration reform is enacted, the need to police our borders will create many federal jobs. "One of the largest areas for hiring in law enforcement and security is border patrol agents and immigration inspectors," McManus says. These jobs pay well, too. For example, a motor carrier safety specialist/border inspector working on the Arizona-Mexico border earns about $31,000 to $50,000. A Chicago-based customs officer who directs evaluations of canine enforcement programs at borders and ports earns about $88,000 to $114,000. Like the stimulus funding itself, some of these jobs won't go on indefinitely. "Many federal stimulus security jobs are not permanent," McManus says. "They're term appointments of a year or two to manage the funding and make sure it's used well."

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