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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 2, 2022


Delegate to Congress Donna Christian-Christensen will make every effort to assist the V.I. government if it seeks to reprogram federal law-enforcement funds to meet critical Police Department needs, her office said on Monday.
However, an official of the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance said federal funds made available to police for use within a specified time and for a specified purpose could be "de-obligated" if they are unspent when the time runs out.
"Generally, it's not that difficult" to get federal approval to reprogram grant money "if the need is there and the money is there," said the delegate's legislative director, Brian Modeste. But if the money was "to meet a specific intent — like the COPS program — it becomes a more difficult task," he said.
COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) is a local community funding program under the U.S. Justice Department that has awarded more than $9 million in grants to the territory in the last five years.
Top V.I. officials have been tryng to find out what federal money is in hand that might be made available to provide relief for substandard police facilities and/or personnel in dire need of equipment, supplies and training.
According to Jennifer Robinson, spokesperson for COPS, the program has awarded nearly $9.2 million to the territory since 1995. However, she said, these grants have not come directly into the territory; rather, the funds are on deposit in an account in Washington from which the Police Department can draw down money as it complies with the mandates of the grants. Hiring grants are for a three-year period, she said, and the most recent award is for a period ending in 2001.
COPS was created by Congress in 1994 as part of an initiative by President Clinton to enable local governments to hire more police officers. Robinson said she didn't know how much of the territory's money remained unspent; a source familiar with Police Deparment fiscal affairs said it could be as much as $6.6 million.
Jim Johnson of the Bureau of Justice Assistance told the Source Monday that the bureau has made grants to the territory through the Law Enforcement Planning Commission, which serves as a clearinghouse for the Police Department. COPS funds are not under his jurisdiction and do not go through LEPC, he noted.
"Our records show those moneys may have been hanging around from the Davila administration," Johnson said. Ramon S. Davila was police commissioner and also head of the Law Enforcement Planning Commission in the Schneider administration, from 1995 to 1999.
Because the COPS funding was for a specific purpose, to be used over a specified period of time, Johnson and others familiar with the program said, when the allotted time has expired, any unspent funds may be "de-obligated."
The Police Department received COPS grants to cover the hiring of 72 new police officers. Reportedly, 29 have been hired. This information left Johnson perplexed. He asked what the point was of writing grant proposals if the V.I. government didn't use the money.
Such entanglements notwithstanding, Modeste said that Christian-Christensen will "vigorously pursue" the reprograming of the available federal police funds, if that is the Turnbull administration's wish.

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