SPPD, other VC police agencies fail to garner DOJ stimulus grants

August 19, 2009
Santa Paula News

Santa Paula, located in one of the safest county’s in the nation, won’t be getting any sorely needed stimulus funds to boost public safety.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesSanta Paula, located in one of the safest county’s in the nation, won’t be getting any sorely needed stimulus funds to boost public safety. But then again, none of Ventura County’s other cities will get a piece of the U.S. Department of Justice funding pie to boost local enforcement by preserving or adding officers.Ventura County cities didn’t make the funding cut partly because overall it has fewer incidents of crime than in other communities vying for the grants. Last week U.S. Department of Justice officials awarded $1 billion in three-year grants to hundreds of police agencies nationwide, based on a criteria that gave preference to those communities with higher crime rates and those most impacted by the national fiscal crisis.The funding drew applications from more than 7,200 law enforcement agencies seeking a total of $8.3 billion that would provide more than 39,000 officer positions. Because of the high number of applications, the Justice Department put a grant cap of 50 officers per agency.The Santa Paula Police Department sought money for four additional officers, according to Chief Steve MacKinnon. According to the grant guidelines, the federal funds would cover the cost of each officer for 36 months.The cost for a Santa Paula Police Officer is about $80,000, “just short of a million for the three years.... That would be the cost to fully outfit the officer” with guns, uniforms and other equipment needs, as well as cover annual salary and benefits.Although approved for 34 officers, the SPPD is now down to 32: “We had one vacancy not funded July 1” in the new budget, and a second position subsequently eliminated. “We knew that was coming, so our asking for four was to make up for the two we lost... as well as move a little ahead.”
Not getting the federal funding was “disappointing. They had a large matrix they used to determine which agencies were eligible,” based on crime rate, ratio of officers to citizens, lay-offs and the area’s economy.“In all those areas it suggested we needed officers,” and MacKinnon said Santa Paula’s application even guaranteed that the fourth year of funding would be borne by the city.It was a uniquely strong commitment: “From what we understand, we are the only city in the county” where the City Council officially voted to set aside reserve funds annually that could later be tapped for fourth year officer funding. “The feds wanted reassurances it would not be just a three year deal,” and that officers would not be fired at the end of the grant cycle.“Our city went beyond that” when the Council voted in April to provide the fourth year of funding. “The Council took a vote to guarantee those officers would be funded... we jumped through every available hoop and weren’t funded.“We were disappointed,” said MacKinnon, although “there appears to be a small possibility there will be another round with these grants. The feds already knew there would be many more requests than there was money. It’s just a small suggestion, but,” he added, “we’re not holding our breath.”The City of Los Angeles and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department each received the maximum funding for 50 officers, while other much smaller Southern California communities received grant funding for one officer.

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