hiring program was that some of the money was misspent, and that many open positions were never filled. Federal audits have actually proven as much.
Oklahoma City, however, tapped other justice block grants, such as Justice Assistance Grants, which were used to buy technology and for overtime to staff high-priority areas. "The block grant money was huge," Citty said. "We went from having $1 million to spend before 9/11 to about $300,000 now. That's a big hit for us."
Now there's less money for everyone, and a lot of it is earmarked for homeland security. "We had much more discretion with that [Justice Assistance Grants] funding," Citty said. "We bought computers with it, used it for information systems, our fingerprint systems, overtime programs in high-crime areas and entertainment districts where we really needed additional manpower."
"The grant money that came in from homeland security was extraordinarily restrictive, even for training," said Flynn, who served for more than three years as Gov. Mitt Romney's secretary of public safety and administered homeland security and criminal justice grant money during that time. "You might want to do sniper training but no -- you had to prove you were doing terrorist-related sniper training. Fire departments might have wanted to do HAZMAT training, but if they didn't link it to a nexus with terrorism, they wouldn't fund HAZMAT training."
That lack of flexibility may have been a backlash to claims that some of the early homeland security money was misspent. "It's been limited, and that's been compounded by the fact that in some parts of the country, I don't think the grants have been used wisely," Myers said. "The pie has been carved up in so many pieces trying to satisfy dozens and dozens of constituencies that it's turned into more of a Christmas list for local government managers who couldn't get what they wanted out of their normal budgeting procedures. They've leveraged some of those homeland security grants to get -- I don't want to call them toys -- but operational items that probably should have been a part of the regular operating budget."
As much of the rest of the nation, Oklahoma City is now dealing with a gang problem and an alarming rise in violent crimes involving fatalities. "Last year 35 percent or 40 percent of our homicides had gang members involved," Citty said. "That's high because a couple of years ago we had three, and then last year we had 23. That's a big change."
Citty said there aren't necessarily more gang members, but they are getting more violent, a sentiment other chiefs recently echoed. "We're seeing a lot more gun violence. There are a lot more guns out there, and it's a big issue for us and for most cities."
To address the violence, Citty has to pull officers from other areas. "That's one of those areas where if I had additional funding from our Justice Assistance Grants, I could use that money to get additional people and pay overtime where I need the manpower. It gave us some flexibility."
New Grant Money
There could be some fresh funds from the federal government for fiscal 2008. In May 2007, the House passed the COPS Improvements Act of 2007 (H.R. 1700), which authorizes $1.5 billion annually from fiscal 2008 through fiscal 2013, $350 million of which can be used for technology.
Myers said his department is eligible for grants but would be required, under the act, to match 25 percent of the funding. "We are really struggling with this latest announcement. If we were to seek the full $6 million that we would be eligible for under the grant, I'd have to come up with $1.5 million to match that. I just got marching orders to cut 3 percent of my operating budget for the rest of the year."