Over a year ago we reported that Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced that more than $107 million in grant funding would be released through the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office).
The Attorney General announced funding awards to nearly 200 law enforcement agencies across the nation, aimed at creating, and in some cases protecting, 866 law enforcement positions. The City of Tallahassee was one of the grant recipients.
This past month the City Commission voted to accept the $1.85 million grant.
The grant will fund 15 police officer positions for three years. The award will allow the Police Department to fill 15 unfunded police officer positions and enhance its overall crime fighting efforts by increasing the number of officers assigned as COPS Liaison Officers to each patrol squad. COPS grants for year 2016 were awarded based upon demonstrated community needs and existing partnerships.
With the addition of the COPS Liaison Officers, the agency’s community outreach abilities would drastically increase. The COPS Liaison Officer will address quality of life issues and crime, as identified by statistical data and community complaints. They will enlist a positive relationship with residents, identify criminal activity and resolve those issues working closely with COPS squads, city resources and other department personnel.
This COPS grant was originally sought for FY17 funding, but based upon the recruitment and hiring needs, implementation is scheduled to begin in FY18. The awarded grant will pay up to 75% of the grant eligible salary and benefits of 15 officers for a three-year period. Equipment and supplies are not eligible; however, these costs are supported by a capital project already included in the existing Capital Improvement Plan.
Following the three-year grant period, the positions must be retained and funded for at least 12 months. During this period, if the City reduces the Police Department’s authorized sworn strength due to budget constraints, there will need to be prior coordination with the U.S. DOJ COPS Office and detailed financial documentation provided that accounts for the City’s decrease in available funding and elimination of police officer positions.
The City’s plan is to hire 7 Officers on October 1, 2017 and 8 Officers on April 1, 2018 through the grant retention period.
The five year projection indicates that the plan will cost the City of Tallahassee taxpayers approximately $4.4 million.