RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY
PDT Staff Writer
The White House announced Monday that more than 220 cities and counties will receive grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). Included on their list was the city of Portsmouth, which will receive $327,244 to fund two police officer positions for three years.
The COPS grant will reportedly create, or save, about 800 law enforcement jobs that were previously eliminated, or were in jeopardy of being eliminated, due to local budget cuts. All new law enforcement positions funded in the program must be filled by recent military veterans who have served at least 180 days since Sept. 11, 2001. The program makes grants to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to hire or rehire community policing officers, and provides the salary and benefits for officer and deputy hires for three years.
More than $111 million is being awarded to local public safety agencies across the country. Portsmouth’s award of $327,244 is for two officers, for three years; breaking down to about $54,541 per year, per officer.
“Since we got into office, the President and I have been committed to helping our returning heroes find jobs and transition back into civilian life. A lot of them want to keep serving now that they’re back, and these COPS Grants help give them that chance,” Vice President Joe Biden said.
Portsmouth City Councilman Kevin Johnson introduced similar legislation in the city to give preference to veteran applicants for city jobs. City Council passed the legislation earlier this month.
“We’ve changed the way that we not only seek employees, but how we evaluate them for hire. I’m extremely glad to hear this. If you’ve kept up with any veteran affairs issues as we’ve drawn down in Iraq, and again in Afghanistan, our guys and women are finding it extremely difficult to find jobs or to return to previous jobs. I think everything, especially at the local level of police departments and fire departments and the public safety areas, the assistance is great,” Johnson said.
He cautioned, though, that it still might take time for the city to hire and train new officers.
“Even though that grant funding may be available, I doubt if our police department will be able to utilize it and have somebody on board or out on patrol for probably 10 months to a year,” Johnson said.
Along with the pledge to hire military veterans, grantees for the 2012 COPS Hiring Program were selected based on fiscal need and local crime rates. An additional factor in the selection process was each agency’s strategy to address specific problems such as increased homicide rates and gun violence.
For the entire list of grantees and additional information about the 2012 COPS Hiring Program, visit the COPS website at www.cops.usdoj.gov.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 235, or firstname.lastname@example.org.