The federal government has approved grants of more than $33 million on police training on how to de-escalate violent incidents and expand the use of civilians in mental health calls, as part of a new round of funding for community policing.
The funding will pump new energy into a program that many observers expected to be abandoned during the previous administration, and has since languished under competing critics from the left and right.
The administration’s announcement Wednesday represents a strong signal of support for reform efforts following the failure of a police reform bill in Congress last month.
“Keeping communities safe requires building relationships and increasing trust between law enforcement and those they serve,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in the statement, which coincided with the announcement of National Community Policing Week.
The Department of Justice’s Office Community Oriented Policing Services, known as COPS, was created following the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Considered one of the pillars of police reform, it has spent more than $16 billion on programs ranging from hiring community police officers to training and technical services.
The new federal funds will support the “facilitation of police-community relationship building and to keep the community at the heart of everything that the nation’s law enforcement agencies do on a daily basis,” the statement said.
At least $9 million in grants will be allocated to developing “crisis intervention teams” comprising police and civilian health workers tasked with responding to mental-health related calls. Another $13 million will be spent on “national level” training in de-escalation for state and local law enforcement.
Nearly $4 million will be used to help agencies comply with “national and international standards” on policing through accreditation programs.
Some $1.7 million will be used “for the creation and delivery of tolerance, diversity and anti-bias training for law enforcement officers.”
During his presidential campaign, Joe Biden promised to”reinvigorate” the COPS office with over $300 million in funding.
But the COPS approach has been criticized by community activists and police reformers who have called for a more radical overhaul of law enforcement by “defunding” police and reallocating resources to other community services.