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Federal police grants will reduce layoffs, cover bare essentials

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Maywood is a small industrial city east of Los Angeles that shut down most of its local government last year, including its police department.

No matter: The U.S. Justice Department is giving the city $428,788 to pay for one officer. Maywood’s grant is part of $71.9 million being awarded to California law enforcement agencies this fiscal year to pay the cost of 190 officers. The money is from the federal Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program, which announced yesterday [PDF] that it is doling out $243 million nationwide.

Despite the program’s name, much of the money is going toward reducing police layoffs, rather than adding new hires.

California departments’ grant applications show many of the officers to be funded have been laid off or are slated to lose their jobs.

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Oakland is set to receive $10.7 million for 25 positions this year, with more than half the officers to be rehired from earlier layoffs. The police department’s force shrunk by 15 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to FBI data, a loss of 119 officers.

That decrease came despite millions of federal dollars to keep Oakland’s police force intact. Instead, that money simply reduced the number of layoffs.

Maywood, however, no longer has officers to lay off.

Following a police corruption scandal in 2009, the city lost its liability insurance and dismantled its law enforcement operation, which employed 39 officers.

According to its grant application, the city can afford to pay only for minimal protection from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. That means sheriff’s deputies respond to calls for service, but lack the manpower to work to prevent crime.

Maywood is financially bereft – residents of the 1.2-square-mile city have a per-capita income that is less than half the national average, figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show.

The city requested the federal grant to pay one additional deputy [PDF] to focus on combating gang activity, the application shows.

California Watch could not reach Maywood’s city manager, Lilian Myers, for comment yesterday.

Last year, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General audited the police hiring grants and expressed concern [PDF] about giving money to financially unstable cities. 

“We believe COPS should consider using this fiscal information to identify grantees that are at a greater risk of failing to meet their retention requirements,” the inspector’s report said. If departments are eliminating officer positions, they are a riskier investment for police hiring grants.

But that worry did not undermine grants this year to California agencies that have shed officers.

The Stockton Police Department had 42 fewer sworn officers in 2010 than it did a year earlier, an 11 percent drop, FBI data shows. It is expected to save 17 officers’ jobs with the new federal grant.

“We’re very excited to know we’re going to be getting that $7.8 million,” said Officer Pete Smith, a Stockton police spokesman. But he said the department does not know yet when the money will arrive or what parts of its operation will benefit.

The Justice Department is awarding the Sacramento Police Department money to keep 25 officers, the maximum for any one agency, at a cost of $8.1 million.

If there were no limits, Sacramento police’s application said it would ask for federal money to pay 450 officers, the equivalent of nearly two-thirds of its existing force.

Filed under: Public Safety, Daily Report

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