The announcement Friday that U.S. law enforcement would get about $2 billion of the economic stimulus package was met locally with a mix of praise and caution.
"If the program allows us to hire more police officers, that would be great," Chattanooga Police Chief Freeman Cooper said.
"We think it's a good use of stimulus money," Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble said. "When all is said and done, the No. 1 responsibility of government at all levels is to protect its citizens."
Tennessee municipalities and counties stand to get $50 million in stimulus funds. The largest share goes to the Memphis Police Department, which will receive $5.7 million, according to data from the White House and Justice Department. Hamilton County law enforcement entities were slated to get a little more than $1 million in aid; $840,000 alone will go to the Chattanooga Police Department.
Georgia law enforcement will receive a little more than $59 million. The largest benefactor in North Georgia will be the Walker County Sheriff's Office, which will receive $149,000. The Whitfield County Sheriff's Office will get $114,000.
Chattanooga has received similar federal grant money before, but never this much.
"Typically, the JAG money comes for a specific program," Chief Cooper said.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond, speaking through his spokesman Sgt. Dusty Stokes, said the office would first look to see if the grant money had any strings attached, but would welcome funds if they didn't later obligate the sheriff to continue spending money.
"We don't want to put the office in any sort of negative situation in the future by taking the money now," Sgt. Stokes said.
President Barack Obama announced the funding while speaking in Columbus, Ohio.
"By keeping police officers on the streets whose jobs were threatened by budget cuts and ensuring states and municipalities have the tools and equipment necessary to fight crime, this money will simultaneously help jump-start the American economy and protect our citizens," Mr. Obama said.
The state of Tennessee is considering using its share of the money to improve its Judicial District Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, according to a statement from the White House. That will assist with expanding the number of people for drug interdiction units as well as other task force sections, the statement said.
In Bradley County, previous grants were used to place resource officers in every county school, Sheriff Gobble said, but this time he wants to use the new funding in other areas.
"I've got more officers in the school system protecting students than I've got out protecting the other 100,000 people in Bradley County," he said.
Whitfield (Ga.) County Sheriff Scott Chitwood, like others, said the money was welcome, but he was unaware his department was set to get $114,000.
"Any additional funding we receive is helpful, but I don't know anything about it yet," Sheriff Chitwood said. "Different grants specify different uses, so we'll have to look at it closely before commenting."