Flashing lights on top of police patrol car concept

Denver’s law enforcement agencies complied with federal regulations with money they expended from a U.S. Department of Justice grant program, but submitted several reports late and improperly documented one subrecipient, Denver Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien’s office found.

“Our city budget is tight, and we can’t risk losing any funding sources right now,” O’Brien said. “Accuracy and timeliness need to be given enough priority or we could jeopardize these grant funds in future years.”

Denver’s police and sheriff departments each receive grants from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. The JAG program, begun in 2005, provides money from the Justice Department to local, state and tribal agencies. In the last fiscal year, $263.8 million was available for mental health programs, crisis intervention, crime prevention and law enforcement activities. During fiscal year 2016, nearly two-thirds of grant funding went toward enforcement.

The sheriff department received $52,650 in 2019, intended for new inmate assessments. The Denver Police Department’s grant was nearly $421,800, destined to support two employees in the Denver District Attorney’s Office who work on victim services, anti-trafficking and adult diversion. Other uses of the money included grant management training and the city’s payment for a gunshot detection service. 

O’Brien’s office discovered the police department submitted five of 21 grant reports late in 2019 and 2020, and the sheriff had seven late reports out of a total of nine. Three reports were months overdue, while the majority was less than 20 days late.

“The police department’s grant administrator left unexpectedly in June 2019, and the police’s finance team did not have the personnel to submit reports on time because of competing priorities,” the report found. “Meanwhile, Denver Sheriff officials said grant activities get lower priority compared to more pressing issues,” combined with understaffing.

Late reporting to the state and federal governments could mean withholding of future grants or noncompliance with requirements, auditors warned.

While auditors randomly sampled expenditures and determined that they all complied with requirements, they noted that the Denver Police Department had not properly designated the District Attorney’s Office either a subrecipient, which requires certain monitoring protocols, or a contractor.

In response, Jeannie Springer, the financial manager for the police department, agreed with the findings and indicated that cross-training had occurred to prevent future late reports, and that the department completed the documentation for the District Attorney’s Office’s subgrant.

On behalf of the sheriff department, financial services manager Mark Valentine wrote that the sheriff will implement Outlook calendar reminders at the end of each quarter to ensure timely report submittals.

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