Thursday, July 18, 2013

Senate panel votes to save program that provides grants to hire community police officers

A committee in the Democrat-led Senate voted $394 million to save a program that hires community police officers and other safety personnel, responding to last week's decision by the Republican-led House to zero out the program for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, Ted Gest reports for The Crime Report. President Obama has pushed for the program's continuation as part of his response to last year's school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Community Oriented Policing Services, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, "advances the practice of community policing in America’s state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies," the agency says on its website. "COPS does its work principally by sharing information and making grants to police departments around the United States." The Senate committee's plan, likely to be adopted by the whole Senate, would pay about 1,400 police officers nationwide,

The Senate plan would use $150 million for school safety personnel, conduct school safety assessments, and fill gaps in school safety plans, Gest reports. "The House panel would provide $75 million; the final figure is likely to be a compromise between the two numbers." (Read more)

COPS has been successful in many communities. In 2009 the Merrillville Police Department in northwest Indiana received $600,000 through the grant to hire three police officers for three years, Chas Reilly reports for the The Times of Northwest Indiana. The police department, which has to take on the salaries after the grant ends, has applied for a grant to hire two more officers for three years.

Another community, Powell, Wyo., with a population of around 6,000, has applied for a grant to hire another officer to keep the department fully staffed, C.J. Baker reports for the Powell Tribune. Police Chief Roy Eckerdt told Baker, “Without that position, we can staff, yes — as long as nobody takes a vacation, nobody gets sick and nobody goes to a [training] school." (Read more)

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