City considers second grant to add officers

City considers second grant to add officers

July 12th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Officer Steven Meador, right, and other members of the graduating police academy class take the job oath during a ceremony at Chattanooga State Community College in June.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

BY THE NUMBERS


• $4.4 million: Amount of grant Chattanooga can receive

• 23: How many police officers can be hired under the grant

• 3: Number of years the grant covers

Source: Chattanooga

Chattanooga would like to see more federal money pumped into its police department, bolstering the number of officers on the streets.

The City Council is scheduled to vote tonight to approve applying for a $4.4 million Community Oriented Police Services, or COPS, grant, a year after receiving a similar grant.

"It's something too good not to do," said Richard Beeland, spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield. "We need police officers."

The grant would pay for 23 additional police officers on the streets for three years. The city then would have to match in the fourth year.

The city received the grant last year and hired 23 officers on top of 25 officers the city paid for out of its own pocket.

The U.S. Department of Justice oversees the grant and will make the call on who gets approved. Chattanooga applied for the grant two years ago but lost out to other cities, including Knoxville and Memphis.

But because Chattanooga received a COPS grant last year, one council member thinks it may be a long shot to get it a second year in a row.

"What I understand is it's unlikely we'll get it," said Councilman Jack Benson. "They [the Department of Justice] like to rotate it."

Police officials say the fourth year of the grant - the one the city must match - would cost the city about $1 million. A plan of action already has been submitted to the Department of Justice on how the city will fund the program that year, officials said.

Beeland foresees no problems with the city being able to pay for the officers.

"We've been able to afford it in the past," he said. "I'm sure the City Council would find the money for it."

The Chattanooga Police Department has about 450 police officers, but Chief Bobby Dodd has said he would like 475 officers or even more.

Councilwoman Pam Ladd said Monday the police department is still understaffed and, with growth in the city predicted, more officers are needed. The council should be able to come up with the city's share of the funding if it is awarded a second COPS grant, she said.

"It's not iffy as long as you remember that and plan for it," she said. "The planning is already in place for the current grant and we would do it with another."