Grant-funding considerations for body-worn cameras
How to put together a successful application, whether your facility is expanding a current program or starting from scratch
This feature is part of Correction1's "2023 guide to body-worn cameras." Download the complete report here.
By John Hough
Body-worn cameras (BWC) have become contemporary standard equipment in an exponentially increasing number of police organizations across the nation, supported in large part by federal grant funds. Police agencies have historically led the transition to deploying BWCs and effectively using the data gathered by those BWCs. The lessons learned by police agencies and police officers can ease the transition to BWCs for correctional facilities and correctional officers.
Though surveillance cameras capture many interactions in in correctional facilities, there still exists a critical gap in gathering video documentation of interactions between correctional officers and inmates that can generate the potential for significant liability for an organization or a correctional officer. Just as routine interactions between police officers and the community deteriorate, so too can routine interactions between correctional officers and inmates deteriorate and result in complaints and liability.
Millions of dollars in competitive and matching grants are allocated to support new and expanding BWC programs. But how do you create a winning application either this year or in the future?
During a recent Lexipol webinar, a panel of experts shared top tips for bodycam funding success.
- Samantha Dorm, Senior Grant Consultant, PoliceGrantsHelp
- Rudolph Hall Jr., EdD, Assistant Chief of Special Investigations, New York State Office of the Attorney General Adjunct Lecturer, John Jay College
- Sarah Wilson Handler, Vice President, Grants, Lexipol
- Bill McAuliffe, Director, Professional Services, Lexipol
Whether you are on the first day of your body-worn camera journey or refining your program after a few years, the panelists offered key considerations in four areas to achieve funding success:
Accountability is a foundation block for establishing and maintaining public trust. Accountability is an expectation not just for individual correctional officers, but just as much for the entire correctional agency. Creating and maintaining accountability must be a clearly stated goal of the correctional agency’s BWC program. Focusing on accountability in a grant application process can greatly increase the possibility of an organization being successful in securing grant funding.
If maintaining public trust and effective community partnerships are the goals of a police organization in contemporary society where policing is intensely scrutinized, then establishing and maintaining accountability and transparency are essential. The same is true for correctional facilities. Over the history of BWCs there is ample documented and anecdotal evidence that the video from a BWC has been invaluable in demonstrating accountability and transparency to the community.
BWC video can be a critical element in reviewing and objectively evaluating the work performance of a correctional officer and in determining if a proactive performance improvement plan or an intervention is needed to change a correctional officer’s work behavior, potentially mitigating risks to the officer’s career and liability for the organization.
BWC video can be used to identify and dissect any patterns of behavior or problematic areas, determine if organizational policy is realistic and relevant in the correctional environment, and if the actions of the correctional officers are consistent with organizational policy. It is irrelevant what an organizational policy may state if the correctional officers are not performing in a manner consistent with that policy.
The panelists outlined several areas for facilities to consider regarding the implementation of a body-worn camera program, including video storage and retention.
The volume of data created by the BWC program will be significant and will continually expand. That expanding data must be stored, but the question that must be resolved is whether the storage will be cloud-based or server-based. There are costs and storage space concerns associated with each option that need to be evaluated.
Another consideration that must be examined is the retention period for BWC data mandated by local and/or state requirements.
A BWC program demands developing governing policies which is a considerable task that should be assigned to a specific dedicated coordinator to effectively manage the project. The project coordinator should ensure that the BWC policies developed and implemented are effective, consistent with contemporary standards and practical in the real world of the correctional officer.
The BWC policies should be consistent with the specific current features of the BWCs being deployed and flexible enough to adjust to future upgrades and changes in features and technology. The BWC policies should be living documents, capable of adapting to changes in mandated local and/or state requirements.
BWC policy should address a full spectrum of issues including when BWCs must be activated, in what situations BWC video may be released to the media or the public, and whether a correctional officer will be allowed to review BWC video before writing a report on an incident.
BWC training has addressed where the BWC must be worn on an individual, when the BWC must be activated, how to turn the BWC on and off and how to upload the video produced by the BWC. That information and training is important. But BWC video can also be an invaluable resource in providing documentation of real-life situations to learn in a controlled training environment what worked well and what may have not worked well in communication and tactics during the situation.
BWC data can provide essential qualitative and quantitative information regarding situational awareness and de-escalation tactics during inmate contacts that can ultimately improve correctional officer safety. BWCs will provide a supervisor with insight into how officers act and react when the supervisor is not present during an incident. As such, the BWCs can expand training beyond the classroom into the reality of a correctional facility environment and serve as an effective mechanism to determine if the classroom training is effective, to adjust the training if appropriate, and to review and, as necessary, improve work performance.
To be successful in a grant application, it is critical to emphasize and specifically detail how the BWCs will be used to enhance and improve training. In most grants, training is an eligible expense that can be incorporated into the budget submission. Highlight in the grant application that the BWC video will be utilized to raise individual and organization performance and accountability.
“First and foremost, in most of these grants, training is an eligible expense, so it allows you to use cameras for training,” said Dorm. “This will also help with your program’s sustainability, as from a training standpoint you are using that video to raise performance levels and accountability, so your department is in good standing.”
Grant funding for BWCs for correctional officers is becoming more available. Grant funding sources cover a full range of benefactors including private entities, state resources, and the United States Department of Justice Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program.
Grant submission periods vary considerably through the calendar year. It is best to begin developing the groundwork for the BWC deployment process far in advance of the grant program deadlines, anticipating that the process will undoubtedly unearth questions, challenges and time delays.
Many grant fund benefactors emphasize cooperation or collaboration as a litmus test for providing grant funds. As such, it may be advantageous to proactively seek out and work with other allied organizations when submitting a grant fund request.
Watch the full webinar here.
About the author
John Hough holds an Executive Master of Public Administration degree. He began his career in 1973 with the Los Angeles Police Department. Immediately after graduating from the academy, he was assigned to undercover narcotics. During his career he worked in Colorado as a patrol officer; field training officer; field training and evaluation program sergeant; patrol sergeant; special enforcement unit sergeant; adjutant to the chief of police in Inglewood; and, in California as a sergeant; police lieutenant; police commander; and, chief of police. He was appointed as a federal defense investigator by the U.S. District Court for Colorado during the Terry Nichols Oklahoma City bombing trial.
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