Did Los Angeles Lose a Community Policing Grant Because of Its Sanctuary Policy?

By Preston Huennekens on October 10, 2018

Every year the Department of Justice awards millions of dollars to local law enforcement entities. Attorney General Jeff Sessions elected to withhold certain grant funding for sanctuary jurisdictions over their refusal to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Sessions cited 8 USC 1373, which says that no government can in any way restrict the exchange of information with federal immigration authorities. Many of these jurisdictions joined together in a lawsuit against Sessions for withholding the funds they had previously received under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. (My colleague Andrew Arthur wrote about a similar lawsuit earlier today.)

The city of Los Angeles is one of the prominent parties in the JAG program lawsuit. In its complaint, the city cited a second grant as well: the Community Policing Development (CPD) program administered by the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) branch.

The CPD grant fund is much smaller than the JAG program. In 2018, the program made available up to $10 million in funds, but only awarded about $6 million of that. The Justice Department awards these grants to public governmental agencies, for-profit and non-profit organizations, universities, community groups, and faith-based organizations for the purpose of advancing community policing best practices. Unlike the JAG program, which provides funding directly for law enforcement purposes, the CPD grants are designed only for developing strategies to increase the effectiveness of community policing.

Although Los Angeles is accusing the Justice Department of withholding the CPD grant money over the city's sanctuary laws, they have not received a CPD grant since 2014. A total of 81 groups received award money between 2014 to 2018. Of those 81, only 29 were "public government agencies", including city administrations and police departments. In 2018, only one public government agency received funds of any kind: The Texas Department of Public safety received a grant for $99,784.

The following figures and table use data from the Community Policing Development and Microgrant Awards for the years 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Figure 1. Community Policing Development (CPD) Awards, 2014-2018

The total award amount of all grants in the CPD program has remained above $5 million every year with the exception of 2017. The most money granted in the past five years was in 2015, exceeding 2018's total available reward ($10 million) by over $1.4 million.

Figure 2. CPD Awards to Sanctuary States, 2014-2018 (Calif., Colo., Ill., Mass., Ore.)

Organizations located in sanctuary states received less money in 2018 than they did in any of the previous years, although it is important to note that this money does not necessarily reflect actual government agencies, such as police departments, but rather various non-profit groups and advocacy outlets. Many of those groups are located in Washington, D.C. Groups located in the nation's capital received the greatest amount of award money in the past five years:

State Award Total (2014-2018)
Washington, D.C. $8,249,021
Illinois $7,085,556
Virginia $6,110,887
California $2,449,452
Maryland $1,489,765
Florida $1,319,602
Wisconsin $1,012,738
New York $1,007,172
Colorado $924,446
Texas $570,352
Alabama $565,000
North Carolina $497,645
Arizona $397,723
West Virginia $300,000
Tennessee $249,482
Nevada $199,997
Washington (state) $169,206
Massachusetts $150,000
Minnesota $100,000
Connecticut $79,999
Alaska $75,000
Idaho $75,000
Indiana $75,000
Kentucky $75,000
South Dakota $75,000
Utah $75,000
Oregon $72,696
Kansas $43,721
Pennsylvania $34,780

Organizations in Illinois and California, both sanctuary states, received awards every year except for 2018. But little of that money went to police departments or state agencies. Only one Illinois government agency, the City of Park Ridge in 2014, received money in the past five years. More than half of Illinois' total reward money came from a one-time grant of $4.85 million awarded in 2015 to Hillard Heintze LLC, a consulting firm. In California, only four public-sector entities received money in the same time frame. The greatest share of the money allocated to California groups came from a one-time grant of $1.09 million to the Simon Wiesenthal Center. It's hard for the city to now argue that Sessions was "targeting" the city of Los Angeles by withholding this grant money from them, when they made no such complaint in 2015 when the city received no funds under the Obama administration.

The Community Police Development grants do not make or break state and local law enforcement agency budgets. The grants fund programs used to promote community policing strategies. Many of these funds do not even go to police departments, but to NGOs and universities.

The City of Los Angeles may believe they were targeted by Sessions and the DOJ over their sanctuary policies, as their lawsuit alleges. But it looks more like their application simply was not competitive for other reasons, as was the case in prior years.