Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tucson police get $12.3 million grant to hire 50 officers

The Tucson Police Department will receive a $12.3 million federal stimulus grant to pay the salaries of 50 officers, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords announced today.

The department is 137 officers below its authorized strength because of budget constraints, reported Dylan Smith of the Tucson Sentinel.
The grant will fund entry-level salaries and benefits for three years for newly-hired, full-time sworn officer positions or for rehired officers who have been laid off.
Mayor Bob Walkup said he was "thrilled to death" that Tucson was selected for funding.
"I am extremely grateful for the award of this grant in these critical times," Walkup said in a release from Giffords' office. "It truly is coming at a critical time for Tucson as we face budget cuts and might be forced to lay off police officers."
"Persuading the Justice Department that Tucson should receive this badly needed funding has been very important to me," Giffords said in the release. "Police officers go to work every day and put their lives on the line for their fellow citizens."
The Tucson Police Department has 1,113 authorized positions for sworn police officers but has only 976 officers on the job, said Rick Prater, finance manager for the department.
Police staffing is the same as it was in 1998, said Larry Lopez, president of the Tucson Police Officers Association, in the release.
Because of a hiring freeze and the expected retirement of 60 officers, TPD was facing a reduction to 1989 force levels. 200,000 fewer people lived in the city then, Lopez said.
"This is very exciting news," Lopez said of the federal funding, "but this is just the beginning. We have a long way to go to maintain our staffing."
Lopez urged voters to vote for Proposition 400, a half-cent sales tax increase, saying that despite the grant, the bump is necessary to insure police staffing levels.
"We thank Congresswoman Giffiords for her strong support of law enforcement," Lopez added. Lopez, who also heads the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs, endorsed the incumbent Democrat in August.
TPD is one of 379 law enforcement agencies nationwide to receive a total of $298 million in Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Recovery Program grants. The Department of Justice received 4,590 applications seeking more than $2.3 billion in resources.
The grants are part of an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus act, initiative to enhance local law enforcement.
"We're getting the lion's share of the funding coming to Arizona," Giffords said. "Public safety is the most important function of government and this money will make the people of Tucson safer."
Tucson's COPS grant totals $12,375,850. The terms of the grant require Tucson to retain all of the sworn officers funded after the grant term runs out.
Statewide, Arizona police agencies received funding for 58 officers. The city of Yuma received funding for five officers and police departments for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Eloy and Pinetop/Lakeside each received funding for one officer.