House Vice Speaker says CJPA not doing enough to get more fed funding to help DPS
House Vice Speaker Fetu Fetui Jr., seems to believe the Criminal Justice Planning Agency (CJPA) is not doing enough to get more federal funding to help the Department of Public Safety, which is faced with a shortage of police officers and financial resources.
Fetui’s reaction came Wednesday during the House Judiciary Committee hearing, called by chairman Rep. Toeaina Faufano Autele to learn more information on federal funding awarded to CJPA especially how such monies could help assist with law enforcement. CJPA, whose director is Keith Gebauer, is the local administrator of US Department of Justice grants.
During the committee hearing, Fetui, a former police officer, says he had met with Police Commissioner Save Liuato to discuss a number of issues including grants DPS gets from CJPA. He wanted to know more, such as how much is given to DPS.
Gebauer explained there are different types of grants CJPA applies for and reminded that prior to 2015, CJPA was designated “high risk” but that was finally lifted early last year. Thereafter, Gebauer said CJPA applied for new grants.
Explaining grant types he said, there are formula grants and others called “discretionary or competitive” grants.
Formula grants depend on whatever Congress gives out to the states and territories. “And the number one determining factor on that is population,” Gebauer said. “So unfortunately in this regard, American Samoa is the smallest populated state and territory. So our piece of the pie is the smallest.”
The CJPA director pointed out that for these formula grants while the amount of the grant funding has gone down over the years, the percentage of the distribution of the grant fund has not changed for American Samoa. For example, one of CJPA’s biggest grants is the Justice Assistance Grant (or JAG grant), which was $810,000 in 2010, but for 2016 was $363,000.
He further explained that on some of these grants, the percentage of the total amount that DPS and other local entities get are different and set by statute. For example, if public safety gets 25% that is the only percent DPS receives no matter the total amount of the grant awarded to CJPA.
For “discretionary or competitive” grants, Gebauer said these grants don’t take into consideration the population issue. “We submit our application and the merits of the application are going to determine whether we get funding or not,” he said.
One of the new grants CJPA applied for and was awarded, is the USDOJ Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant, which will fund seven new officers for three years to work with schools as community police officers. (See yesterday’s story for details.)
To date, he said DPS is getting funding under four grants including the violence against women grant to help train DPS officers, the first responders addressing domestic violence and sexual assault.
Another is the JAG grant, which goes towards the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to buy equipment for their investigative purposes. Additionally, the JAG grant also funds all of the DPS personnel in Manu’a. He added there is also money for the K9 division for the care of the animals, training and certification of dog handlers and the officers.
The other grant for DPS is the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT), which is for the Territorial Correctional Facility to help rehabilitate the inmates who are incarcerated, and are eligible for that particular program.
“So all in all for this year, I believe DPS is receiving approximately $500,000,” Gebauer said to which Fetui said twice, it’s “not enough.” Gebauer replied calmly, “I agree with you, it’s not enough, sir.”
Asked how much of the total $500,000 goes to TCF, the director replied that it’s about $30,000 a year under the RSAT program. “In years past, we had money to pay for TCF officers. The last time we could apply for that was in 2012 and there’s been no award since then,” he explained.
Fetui appeared not pleased at all, telling Gebauer that 20 years ago, $30,000 was the same amount and wanted to know if there is any way to increase the amount to help DPS, which is faced with a lack of financial resources.
“No,” Gebauer said about increasing the amount. “Unfortunately those grants, fall under formula grants — meaning the number is locked in and there is no request that we could make. The amount that we get is set, based on the overall amount and the percentage that American Samoa receives.”
Fetui fired back, “You’re not trying enough.” He also asked if Gebauer had ever sat down with Save and discussed issues faced with DPS including police officers.
“I’ve had multiple discussions with the [police] commissioner,” Gebauer replied. “I’ve let him know all of the things that are available for him from our office. I’ve updated him on efforts to try and get new grant funding. These are all the things that I’ve communicated to the commissioner.”
Fetui also wanted to know if there is “any way you can find” a grant to fund the purchase of a rescue boat for Manu’a, that is similar to the one used by DPS Marine Patrol on Tutuila.
Gebauer said, “In all of the [USDOJ] grants we’ve seen, there isn’t anything that allows us to fund anything that is related to marine patrol.”
“While we provide assistance to DPS, it is under the strict parameters that allows us the grant to provide assistance,” Gebauer explained, to which Fetui said, “I want you to try more” especially if there are such funds available in the future.
Rep. Faimealelei Anthony Allen sought further information on the total of the JAG grant and how it’s spent.
Gebauer said the total grant is $363,000 and 10% stays with CJPA for administration; $70,000 to the Attorney General’s Office, $100,000 goes to the Manu’a base policing for DPS; $18,000 goes to DPS recording keeping; $50,000 to DPS’ CID; $20,000 to DPS K9 unit; $30,000 to the High Court; $20,000 goes to the Treasury K9 unit (under Customs) and $20,000 to CJPA for evaluation of the program.
See next week’s edition on other issues that surfaced during the hearing.