Alaska has received over $62 million in grant funds from the federal Office of Community Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice, since late 1994. According to figures released by the COPS program in September 2004, these COPS funds have made possible the hiring of 324.1 full-time equivalent (FTE) officer positions.
The original thrust of the COPS program was to put additional officers into communities, both urban and rural, so much of the Alaska grant money was either directed at hiring new officers or at freeing sworn officers from administrative duties in order to permit them to engage in direct police work. In general, the COPS hiring programs have provided individual agencies with funds for additional officer positions for a period of three years only. The program was not designed to be a permanent source of funding for officer positions. COPS provided a percentage of the money required for each position, with the recipient agency contributing matching funds. In addition, the agency agreed to retain the new positions for at least one full fiscal cycle beyond the expiration of grant funding. Under certain conditions small communities could receive funding for an additional year. COPS funding directed through the Tribal Resources Grant Program, an important source for village Alaska, was structured by somewhat different conditions.
Of the $62 million that has come to Alaska, just over $30 million has gone to the Anchorage Police Department, the Alaska State Troopers, the Fairbanks Department of Public Safety and the Juneau Police Department. These four agencies were able to fund a total additional 112.1 officer positions.
The total funding going to communities with populations under 1000 has been around $16 million. This sum funded 167.6 FTE positions in approximately 70 rural communities as well as training, equipment purchases and technical support.
It is not known how many of the COPS-funded positions have turned into permanent positions—beyond the term specified in the grant. According to the Alaska Police Standards Commission, at the end of February 2005, there were 1190 certified sworn officers in Alaska. Since 1994, the number of sworn officers has grown by at least two-thirds. Some of this growth has undoubtedly been due to the influx of COPS money.
Some communities that have received COPS grants have officers—Village Police Officers (VPOs) or Tribal Police Officers (TPOs)—who have not been certified by the Alaska Police Standards Commission. The map appearing on page 4 shows the distribution of VPOs and TPOs, as well as Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs) at the end of February 2005.
On a national basis funding for the COPS program has declined in the last several years and its future is now in doubt.