Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Cohen Fights For $2.2 Million Owed to Memphis Police that Department of Justice Mistakenly Directed to DeKalb County, Georgia

October 31, 2014
Press Release

[MEMPHIS, TN] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) is calling on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to ensure that the City of Memphis receives more than $2.2 million in police department funding it is owed that was mistakenly awarded to DeKalb County, Georgia in 2009. A new DOJ Inspector General report found that had it not been for inflated, inaccurate crime statistics reported by DeKalb County, the Memphis Police Department would have received those funds, allowing the city to hire the 50 officers it needed, rather than reduced funding that only allowed the city to hire 37 officers.

“I was disturbed to learn that the City of Memphis Police Department was deprived of more than $2.2 million that it rightfully should have been awarded in 2009 to hire needed officers and keep our community safe,” said Congressman Cohen. “The Memphis economy has been particularly hard hit in recent years, and losing out on this funding likely forced the redirection of resources away from other important priorities in an already strained budget. Attorney General Eric Holder should rectify this mistake as soon as possible and ensure that Memphis receives all of the money it is owed.”

The DOJ’s report found that the inaccurate statistics reported by DeKalb County placed it “in a better position to receive… funding because it appeared to have a greater need for funding to address fiscal and economic conditions and high rates of crime.” Following an audit of the statistics provided, the Inspector General learned that DeKalb County would not have been awarded the grant it received, and that the “City of Memphis Police Department, which received… funding for 37 of the maximum 50 allowed officers it requested, would have been fully funded for 50 officers using $2,229,357 of the funds awarded to DeKalb County.” Finally, the report recommends that DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) “remedy” the mistakenly directed funds.

A signed copy of Congressman Cohen’s letter is available here and its text is copied below:

Dear Attorney General Holder:

I was disturbed to learn that the City of Memphis Police Department was deprived of more than $2.2 million that it rightfully should have been awarded from the COPS Hiring Recovery Program in 2009.  I urge you to rectify this mistake and ensure that Memphis receives all of the money it is owed.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) report entitled “Audit of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Grants Awarded to DeKalb County, Georgia,” funds that were improperly awarded to DeKalb County should have been awarded to Memphis instead.  The report explained that DeKalb County submitted inaccurate data to support its application, including reporting a percentage reduction in civilian agency personnel that could not be verified, under-reporting the local area unemployment statistics, and over-stating all crime incidents.  Under the DOJ’s methodology DeKalb County would not have been eligible to receive funding had the correct data been supplied and $2,229,357 would have been provided to Memphis instead.  This money would have enabled Memphis to fully fund the 50 officers it requested, instead of funding for the 37 it received.

As you know, the COPS Hiring Recovery Program (CHRP) was created as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to provide additional resources to local law enforcement departments struggling to maintain their budgets during the Great Recession.  CHRP enabled police departments to hire, rehire, or retain police officers during these difficult economic times, both enhancing public safety and providing much needed jobs.  The Memphis economy has been particularly hard hit in recent years and by losing out on much needed CHRP funding, it was forced to redirect resources to its police department away from other important priorities in an already strained budget.

The IG report recommends that the DOJ remedy the funds improperly awarded to DeKalb County.  It is only fair that Memphis now receive the money it should have been awarded had the DOJ been supplied with accurate data.  I appreciate the IG’s thorough investigation, which discovered this error, and I hope you will do all you can to ensure that the DOJ provides Memphis the funding it needs and deserves.  Thank you for your attention to this matter.

As always, I remain,

Most sincerely,