Byrne Grant funds dwindling

By Kalea Hall


The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program has helped area law enforcement buy new vehicles, pistols and other equipment for decades.

But the amount of funding received has continually diminished in recent years.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said with the passage of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate budget, the program will get cut another $24 million this year.

“Restore these cuts,” Brown said. “You shouldn’t be cutting local governments. [Police departments] aren’t equipped with the dollars they need for training.”

Brown, a Democrat from Cleveland, met with local police and media Monday at the Youngstown Police Department to discuss the importance of the federal funds.

Brown is going across the state to talk to local government officials about how to get more federal funding.

“To me, it is the Feds who need to help communities like Youngstown and Mahoning County,” Brown said.

In 2005, Congress merged the Edward Byrne Memorial Grant program and the Local Law-Enforcement Block Grant program to form the Edward Byrne Memorial JAG program. JAG awards, administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, are used for law enforcement, prosecution and courts, prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment, planning, evaluation, crime victim and witness programs and technology improvement, according to a JAG Program technical report from 2014.

In 2014, about $290.9 million in JAG funding was allocated. Ohio’s allocation, which includes state and local government, was $8.9 million.

Locally, the program has provided funds to the Mahoning Valley Task Force, city, county and township police departments.

“None of us want to see the Byrne grants go away,” Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees said.

The city has used the funds for hiring, training and equipment.

Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene said the about $36,000 received last year went toward the purchase of body cameras. The year before that the grant funds were used to purchase pistols.

“They desperately needed replaced and we did not have the money to do that,” Greene said. “This is a grant we have come to rely on.”

But the funds from it seem to be dwindling. Local authorities recalled a time when they received three figures from the grant program.

“As the needs are greater, we are seeing federal cuts on top of federal cuts,” Brown said.

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