This ongoing feature provides information on free resources accessible to first responder departments nationwide. This includes training, equipment, and funding opportunities that focus on rural and small to midsize communities.
The United States Department of Agriculture has a long history of administering programs for farming practices, forestry management, and food safety and production. In addition to its primary mission, the USDA serves as a resource for community development information, grants, and research tailored to the specific needs of rural and midsized communities. The National Agricultural Library (NAL), an offshoot of the USDA, provides an extensive collection of information for members of law enforcement and local communities to reduce crime, secure funding, and locate training resources appropriate for small departments.
The NAL Funding Assistance page includes links to federally funded programs that support law enforcement agencies and victims of crime. These resources range from training and technical assistance programs, as provided by the Department of Justice, to free training programs offered by the Department of Homeland Security. Funding also includes the USDA Community Facilities Loans and Grants program, which supports police stations in its distribution guidelines. This program provides facilities development in communities of up to 20,000 people, with a focus on applicants in small communities with low populations and low incomes.
The resources provided on K-9 programs include information on organizations that support the training and application of working dogs in law enforcement, as well as some regional non-profit assistance in obtaining trained dogs. The National Police Canine Association and North America Police Work Dog Association both offer calendars of events and workshops for training and certification along with general resources for K-9 handlers. The Vest ‘N P.D.P. nonprofit featured on the site provides bulletproof and stab-proof vests for working animals, and has outfitted close to 700 police dogs since its creation.
The planning section features training and assistance in integrating law enforcement and associated programs into rural communities. Recommendations for local government officials are provided in Roles in Community Safety, and planning programs directly for law enforcement are outlined in Neighborhood-Oriented Policing.
The NAL publications include both documents produced by the USDA and studies generated by other national agencies. This includes substantial reports on rural gangs, prisons, and substance abuse, as well as the ways in which crime trends have changed and been impacted in rural and small-town areas. The Research and Data section focuses on justice and crime statistics, which may be useful in obtaining information to clarify funding needs, as well as a regional overview. The law enforcement Case Studies provide real-world models of rural policing, as well as a projected outlook from these examples.