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Episode 51: Anniversary Spotlight on the BJA BWC Team (Part 1)

The BWC Technical and Training Assistance’s Dr. Chip Coldren interviews BJA’s Senior Policy Advisor Mike Roosa, ASU’s Dr. Michael White, Booz Allen Hamilton’s Todd Maxwell who are all part of BJA’s Body Worn Camera team to discuss solicitations, funding, research, the toolkit, technical and training assistance, the podcast series and other efforts supporting law enforcement and the justice community around BWCs.

Return to Body-Worn Camera Podcasts

1 Year Anniversary of BJA Podcast Series 

Part 1 

Chip Coldren: Hello, listeners.  I’m Chip Coldren.  I serve as the Managing Director for Justice Programs at CNA and the Safety and Security Division and Project Director for the Bureau of Justice Assistance Body Worn Camera Technical Assistance Program.

In honor of the one year anniversary of the Bureau of Justice Assistance Body Worn Camera podcast series, we’re going to do things a bit differently for this podcast.  We’re asking several of our frequent podcast hosts to serve as interviewees. They will update us on the Bureau’s Body Worn Camera efforts and provide us with an update on research occurring around body-worn cameras.

Today, I’m speaking with Michael Roosa, Senior Policy Adviser for the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Dr. Michael White, Professor at Arizona State University and Todd Maxwell, Subject Matter Expert on the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Body Worn Camera team.

 Michael Roosa is a Senior Policy Adviser for the Bureau of Justice Assistance Policy Office.  As an experienced technology implementer and data integrator, Mr. Roosa’s portfolio includes the Body Worn Camera Pilot Implementation Program, Technical Analysis for the Violence Reduction Network, and the Technology Innovations for Public Safety Program.  Previously, Mr. Roosa was the Chief Information Officer for the Maryland State Police.

Michael White is a Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University.  He serves as a Director of the school’s PhD Program as the Associate Director of the University Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety, and as a Co-Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance Body Worn Camera Technical Assistance Program.  He receives his PhD in Criminal Justice from Temple University in 1999.  Prior to entering academia, Dr. White worked as a Deputy Sheriff in Pennsylvania.

 Dr. White’s primary research interest involved the police including user force, training, and misconduct.  His recent work has been published in justice quarterly, criminal justice and behavior, criminology and public policy, and crime and delinquency.

 Todd Maxwell is a Consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton and works on site at the Bureau of Justice Assistance as a Technology Subject Matter Expert advising them on policy related to technology topics including body worn cameras, video analytics and reduction, implementation strategies, software integration, cloud solutions, and emerging technologies.  He’s a Member of the Bureau’s Body Worn Camera Team that created the body worn camera toolkit and a frequent host of the Bureau’s Body Worn Camera podcast series.

 Now, let’s begin with Michael Roosa.  Mike, it’s been a busy year at BJA in regards to the grants podcast solicitations in body worn camera technical assistance.  A big part of the Bureau’s Body Worn Camera efforts involves funding solicitations, and BJA release solicitations in 2015 and 2016 for body worn cameras.  Can you give our listeners an overview of the solicitations for those two years?

Michael Roosa: Great.  Thanks, Chip.  I love too and thanks for having doing it this way.  This sounds like a fun interview.  The solicitations were obviously important to us, they’re a big part of the program.  I think we’re over 40 somewhat million right now put up by BJA through donation to support body worn camera programs.  Some of that GPA, some of that has been the department of the (inaudible) of those areas, but the (lion share) of these funds have really been to implement body worn cameras at the local agency.

 Unfortunately, dealing with people such as Dr. White who joins us today, we had a strong base of knowledge that we felt we could build on the existing knowledge that was there and continue to develop this program.  So really what we’ve done is focused on implementations based on agency size, and agency readiness going to those areas.  A few areas we’ve focused on partnerships with the green agencies.  Just try to leverage economies of scale on purchasing since this is obviously such an expensive endeavor as most agencies have found.

Additionally, the relationship have strong impact on the Criminal Justice System means you have that relationship with more of the Criminal Justice System.  So we require strong relationship with prosecutions, the judicial system.  Even at (Seabrooks) -- and this is a transparency and community driven program -- those advocacy groups really play a big role in it.  So in the two years, we’ve done technically three solicitations, just agency 25 as large as they get in 2015 where we released about 23 million in funds, purchased about 21,000 cameras for agencies or they’re in the process of purchasing those of the two year grant.

This year, we did a little bit differently.  We recognized the gap for agencies that are below 25 officers and (inaudible) discuss that a little bit later but that second solicitation was really important to help us earn about agencies.  And that’s what we do with a lot of these solicitations is we use it as a learning base to full knowledge when these agencies that they work.  And then this year with the 2016 EWC test which is the policy and implementation program on just the short name for the solicitation, we’ve made over a 100 awards this year.

A lot of them for a small agency -- a lot of them for agency sizes that we’ve used and that’s another 17,000 cameras implemented.  So in two years, we received over 490 applications, we’ve been asked for $85 million in funds.  Again we only have 40 to issue and we have made basically about a 179 awards for that $40 million which actually target about 38,000 cameras in the end.  So we’re looking forward to it and we’re hoping to continue next year given funding and we keep looking forward.

Chip Coldren: Thanks.  It has quite amazing how you stood that program up on such a short amount of time so the bureau deserves a lot of credit for that.  I’m wondering if you might just talk a little bit more about the reasoning behind creating the new solicitation for under 25 agencies?

Michael Roosa: The 2016, we really did have a strong progress.  So we have BJA on agencies of all sizes, and as you recognize the fact that majority of law enforcement officers in the nation work for an agency with under (inaudible) officers but particular under 25 officers.  That’s an important impact and we realized that while they could partner together and submit applications, we had a few in 2015 that actually did that.  So agencies smaller than 25 officers standing together to submit a larger net application for us to do.  Did work, but we didn’t quite get as many as we had hoped for.            

 So putting out this particular solicitation that focus on agencies under 25, there’s two main goals.  One is to get more of them into the mix and to be able to work with more and help distribute the funds that way.  It will be fair to all law enforcement agencies that we try to be.  The second was actually recognizing the gap in grant ability, the ability to complete grant.  Some small agencies are certainly (agree) to that, I don’t mean to detract their ability.  But the (bugs) how many agencies there are, there are a lot of them that don’t understand the grant process.

Having a separate solicitation allowed us to simplify the process and get some of the overhead off of it and push those grants out.  There are still a lot of requirements in the complex process, the complex program as you’ll see later.  But in general sense, the idea was that to help small agencies focus on what’s crucial to small agencies that might not be impactful for larger agencies.

Chip Coldren: Yes, makes a lot of sense.  Now, let’s talk about something different for a minute.  From your perspective, and we know that there’ll be opportunities for additional solicitations in the future.  What kind of advice or what are some best practices in applying for these grants that you might offer to our listeners?

Michael Roosa: Let me start with the biggest mistakes we see.  And I guess, well that’s the easiest way is fund the grant process.  You know we open the grant for a certain period of time, and then when the grant closes we don’t take anymore applications and there are no updates to the application.  So you haven’t told the deadline to get your brand in.  After that point, the peer reviewers kick in.  Peer reviewers are people like you, and me, and anybody else from a local agency that signs up to do peer reviewing.  They’re paid peer reviewers but they come from typically law enforcement or prosecutions, or a researcher’s background.

 And they work for other agencies where they are not full time employees of the Federal Government.  And they’re reviewers, that’s really who you write in troopers.  So that understanding as you write your application that it’s not the Federal Government that you’re really writing to, to convince that your application is good.  It’s very important.  After the peer reviewers give the scores, then we take over and look at the requirements of the grant and other component and make sure you lined up even base on the scores and issue the funds.

 Funding decision is based on that.  So some of the areas that agencies, we want to make sure they don’t do the biggest mistake.  But it’s certainly a shame to see, they don’t start early enough, they don’t make the deadline, and they don’t ensure that their grants accounts in GMS, the Grant Management System are fully setup (embedded) so that they can be sure they submit.  But that causes is the last minute mistakes, a failure to submit document that may have been developed but not submitted.

 And you know, we hate to see an application sit on the floor because the document just wasn’t sent to us.  After closing to be fair to the other applicants, we can’t accept additional documentation.  So they have to work early on this, identify when it comes out, and focus on getting the package together and try to submit a few days earlier.  I’d say five, maybe a week early because what happens is any problem that we see as an application we do review it for basic necessities.  We actually will respond or if there was a problem submitting two days gives you time to work through that and that presents you from having to go into an appeal process.

Otherwise, it’s reading the entire application before you start working on it.  Understand what the requirement.  I will recommend using a highlight as going through and highlighting areas.  Anytime you see something that says required or mandatory, make sure you have section.  There’s several pieces of the solicitation that give you outlines of how the application work, how the solicitation is supposed to be done.  An important note is that often the peer reviewers use the same order that we put in the solicitation.  So in your writing and application, agency should focus on using the same order that we provided in the solicitation.

That will help to make it easier for the peer reviewers to actually find the data that you’re looking for.  This is how they grade or swore an application.  So make sure that you go through this the process, make sure it’s complete, try to keep it in the same order.  Two other things, I’ll try to keep it somewhat short.

The budget worksheet and budget narrative are technically two different documents.  They tend, they work together.  The budget worksheet is actually where you have your line item expected cost and that they don’t have to be final cost.

But the budget narrative explains line by line, they can be worked together but they do have to be information and give the peer reviewer an understanding of what your kind to buy and how it relates to the program.  The other fees would be – I guess the order, the file names of the files you upload, try to make them descriptive.  That helps the peer reviewers and us to identify the areas that we’re looking for.  You’ll be loading multiple files with this application.  The best example I can give is a requirement that we’ve had every year so far and it’s just getting more emphatic on it because we see the need for this, which is the prosecutor support documentation.

 There’s actually two attachments that I expect to be in this year, but I won’t be able to review that until we actually have the solicitation finalized and that this we got to post that’s based on finance.  But that is actually an MOU or some formal document that identifies that a prosecution or the prosecutor is involved with the program.  They have eyes open going into this, it’s not going to surprise them if their agency started a program.  The second one is actually we’ve identified the importance of use of force.

 And we’re actually going to require the agency to make a statement that they’ve identified, that they will review their use of force policy if they don’t already have a regular periodic process for this review.  It’s just because we want to help agencies maintain the security of recognizing the news for that policy.  Don’t assume that the peer reviewers know what you’re talking about, don’t use acronyms where they might not make sense on other areas.  But at the same time, as you’re trying to describe something complex, we’ll try to be brief.

You know the longest we’ve had is 20 pages for this solicitation which would be the application length.  We’ve gone down to ten per small agency is trying to simplify it.  Somewhere in the middle is what you focus on, don’t use all 20 if you don’t have to.  Just explain in the program as best as you can in words that if you were talking to another agency that they would understand why the need is there and how it’s going to be a success for your agency.

That’s really the gamut of grant applications, there’s always other pieces. 

Never be afraid to pause, make sure you attend the webinars for the grant.  Usually a couple of days, maybe a week after the solicitation is posted at BJA will host a webinar that reviews it.  Particularly in this case, we’re fortunate we have CNA as the TTA provider.  Agencies looking to submit applications will certainly reach out for them and figure out, you know what are best practices that they should make sure they work with in going on those areas.  But given all that, I would say you know I expect a lot of good applications next year should we get to post it.

Chip Coldren: Good.  That sound practical advice.  Mike, thank you.  One last question for you if you don’t mind.  Can you just talk a little bit about the range of technical assistance resources and services that are provided through the bureau’s program?

Michael Roosa: Sure, sure. 

Chip Coldren: And maybe talk a little bit about what’s available to non-grantees as well as grantees?

Michael Roosa: Thank you.  I appreciate that Chip.  That’s really important aspect.  It’s something we recognize.  While we may have dealt with 500 agencies, and we have awarded almost 200 agencies, we can take that to the number of approximately 18,000 agencies where a drop in the bucket overall.  So the non-grantees, it’s really important but we need the grantees to help gather information.  So the biggest difference is grantees of course are receiving fund, so all the federal mandates and requires that go with receiving fund, again there’s a periodic reporting that’s necessary which is really programmatic and fiscal reporting.

 The TTA provider assist with the recording of achievements of milestones they had met and go into through areas.  Plus there’s a special conditions components.  Anytime you receive a grant from BJA, they’ll usually be some type of special condition, body worn cameras particularly usually has a policies special condition which means you have to have go a, what we call the policy development review process.  CNA leaves that effort and works with the agencies to do that review and help them that with dictating policy but we’re just ensuring that the policy as considerate of the (breath) needed for such a complex policy.

 I’m going through this.  For non-grantees and for everybody, this is where it really kicks in and the benefit of having a TTA provider that’s funded so there won’t be any required match or required request for the agency to put in funds to do this.  You make the call, you send the e-mail and we’ll give that in a little bit.  Then you get access to the services that are provided.  The best way to make sure it’s clear and particularly if I missed, bwctta.com and best place to go is you can look through what the resources are, and how to get there, how to contact the agencies, and what’s really available.

Mainly, if you have a question about body worn camera programs, whether it’s on implementation, policy development, advocacy, and outreach, any area that you might have a question on, where do they expect the cost and you know what’s the best company.  I’m not going to answer that question particularly for you, but you’re going to have that question.  What we can do is and through TTA is provide you with peers that have worked with multiple companies and you can have that conversation and ensure that you get through that discussion with other relevant subject matter experts.

 Additionally, and this one of the world strengths that I like about both CNA’s done for it is get up the speaker’s bureau.  So if you have a regional meeting you went on and you need a subject matter expert to really talk about some of the areas might be about prosecution, or implementation, or even budgeting for a body worn camera program, contact us, we’ll see.  If we can do it over the phone, we’ll keep (up at you) and do it over the phone.  It’s very good information that information goes that way.  But if you need somebody on site for something and usually we have some sites to it, regional is better than just sitting for a single agency that we could usually do on its own.

Please call, ask for representatives to come out subject matter expert on particular area and provide that services.  It’s really then a good benefit in providing that information is what BJA focuses for this. 

This concludes part 1 of our podcast in honor of the one year anniversary of the Bureau of Justice Assistance Body Worn Camera podcast series.

Date Created: August 10, 2020