Police request four officers from stimulus money

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Shelbyville police asked the City Council Tuesday for the opportunity to hire four additional officers with federal stimulus money.

The funds, which would come from the Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing (COPS) Hiring Recovery Program, via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, would provide 100 percent funding for three years for newly hired, full time officers.

There is no local match requirement for the grant except that Shelbyville would be required to retain the officers for at least one year after the initial three-year period in which the salaries are fully federally funded.

The federal funding would be based on entry level salary and benefit packages. The funds can also be used for re-hired officers who have been laid off or are scheduled to be at a later date as a result of budget cuts, according to the Justice Department.

Deputy Chief of Police Mike Rogers explained to the council that Shelbyville is within the national average of two officers per 1,000 residents, but that the South Central Tennessee Development District has projected an average growth for the city of about 2,000 residents every five years.

The city currently has 41 full time officers on the force, Rogers said.

But Rogers said that several areas have been annexed into the city, including Highway 231 North to Airport Road, which has increased the department patrol duties.

"It would be essential that the Shelbyville Police Department be prepared for this future increase by taking advantage of this opportunity of providing these officers at no cost for the next 3 years," Rogers wrote in a memo to the council.

Crime is up

Rogers told the council that according to statistics provided by the TBI and the city's own records, from 2007 to 2008, the department's complaints dropped by five percent, but reportable crime jumped by 30 percent and arrests by eight percent.

Burglaries, theft and vandalism also showed significant increases during the same time period, Rogers said, and the first quarter of 2009 projects no decrease.

The deputy chief said the department is very interested in implementing a "flex unit," in which the four proposed officers would be assigned.

The unit would be deployed in high-crime target areas throughout Shelbyville and would saturate those areas with a zero-tolerance policy targeting criminal offenders, Rogers said.

But the new unit would also have the flexibility to adjust to fight crime "in other areas such as drug trafficking, consumption of drugs, illegal gambling, burglaries, criminal gang activities, graffiti random gunfire calls, etc."

Rogers also said that the department's Criminal Investigations Division (CID) is in need of another investigator due to the workload. The proposed unit would work closely with CID in providing intelligence, helping with following up on drug complaints, graffiti in commercial areas and city parks, working undercover and making traffic checks in high DUI-prone areas, Rogers said.

Training grant

If the city receives the grant, the only expense would be training and equipment, but that could be covered by another stimulus program called the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.

The grant could be used for technical assistance, training, equipment, contractual support and information systems for criminal justice, among other items, Rogers explained.

Training for an officer costs an estimated $2,500 and equipping him or her could be as much as $3,000, Rogers said, also adding that if the city got the four officers, two additional patrol cars would be needed.

Police Chief Austin Swing also told the council that the Byrne grant could also be used to upgrade the department's radio system, which he said has some issues that needs to be addressed.

The city will have to act quickly to apply for the COPS hiring grant, with the application materials already posted on line. The Justice Department said that the COPS office will get $1 billion from the stimulus to address the personnel needs of state and local law enforcement.

There is no cap on the number of positions a police agency may request, but awards would be limited to available funding, the Justice Department said.

Also, at the conclusion of federal funding, the grantees must retain all sworn officer positions awarded under the grant with local or other funds.