Bradley County: Local agencies welcome stimulus

Bradley County: Local agencies welcome stimulus

February 11th, 2009 by Jacqueline Koch in Local Regional News

Though Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble has mixed feelings about the effectiveness of President Obama's stimulus plan, he welcomes any money given to local law enforcement agencies.

"The No. 1 responsibility of government is public safety and I do know officers on the street do help reduce crime and increase our public safety," he said, while explaining that he isn't sure whether the plan can help the economy as a whole.

Mr. Obama's stimulus plan includes $4 billion in grants that would fund drug task forces, after-school programs, prisoner rehabilitation programs and other programs, as well as pay the salaries of many local police officers.

Of the $4 billion in grants, $3 billion would fund the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant for programs, while $1 billion would fund the Community Oriented Policing Services to pay officer salaries.

Because of the growing population in Bradley County, as well as increased gang activity, Sheriff Gobble said he would use additional money to hire patrol officers and court security positions.

Other local law enforcement officials say it's too early to determine how federal grant money from Mr. Obama's stimulus package would be used by their agencies. But all agree more grants are needed to deter crime, maintain up-to-date technology and keep personnel.

"Whether we get (the grants) or somebody else gets them, it's needed," said Chattanooga Police Department Deputy Chief Mark Rawlston, adding that federal funds increasingly dwindled each year.

He said it's impossible to know what grants the department could get until he knows the grants' stipulations.

Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chief Allen Branum said he expects some grants to mirror previous ones, which heavily promoted technology and Department of Justice programs.

"Hopefully, it's something similar to what they've done in the past that we'd be able to take advantage of to upgrade and maintain equipment that we've been able to initiate," Chief Branum said. "Programs and projects are very expensive."

One program the sheriff's office would consider expanding would be community meetings about school violence, gangs and truancy. The meetings could be sustained long-term if funding were available, Chief Branum said.

"It might give us a boost and be able to step that program up and go to longer-range projects from trying to track and target the elementary schools to kind of change behavior patterns of some of the younger adults," he said.