This year, the Bethlehem Police Department is applying for less funding from The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program than usual.
The grant program is the leading source of federal justice funding to both state and local jurisdictions. The program is a recurring source of funding for the Bethlehem Police Department.
In the first few minutes of the Bethlehem City Council meeting on Sept. 6, BPD’s Chief of Police Michelle Kott said the reason for requesting less funding is because of reduced crime in the areas they serve.
“This grant is a grant that we receive annually,” Kott said at the meeting. “It is based on population size, as well as our crime data.”
In 2020, BPD applied to receive up to $41,034. This year, BPD applied to receive $17,894.
“The public hearing is to review and accept public comment on the proposed use of funds to be received under the (grant),” City Council president Michael Colón said.
Kott said the reduction by more than half within the last two years is not a bad problem to have.
BPD varies where they allocate the grant money to. They routinely use the funds to upgrade the department’s computer hardware, software and other items. Sometimes, however, they switch it up, as in 2009 when they used the money to buy a horse.
“Because our officers use their cars as mobile offices, we’re going to be using that grant funding to put mobile computers — toughbooks — in the vehicles,” Kott said.
Toughbooks are computers that can be easily stored and transferred between patrol cars. They are built to withstand rough handling and work in many kinds of weather and environment.
Kott said, in addition to these new computers, they intend on putting docking stations in the cars so officers can write reports while in the vehicle.
Lastly, Kott said the money will be used on BPD’s PowerDMS subscription. PowerDMS is a software platform that helps organizations recruit, train and protect employees across their careers. It’s particularly popular in the fields of law enforcement and healthcare.
“(PowerDMS) allows us to stay compliant with our accreditation standards, both federally and locally,” Kott said.
BPD has been receiving this grant since the early 2000s, and the Bethlehem City Council plays a particular role in its facilitation.
“City Council’s role in this grant is to approve the uses,” City Council member Hillary Kwiatek wrote in an email. “We don’t take an active role in administering the grant. That is the responsibility of the police department and the city’s financial administrators.”
They voted unanimously to place the matter on the schedule of the Sept. 22 City Council meeting to talk about accepting the proposed uses for the money.
During the meeting, multiple City Council members congratulated Kott on the implications of the reduction in grant money.
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