No stimulus money to fund police hires in Cape, Jackson, Marble Hill, Scott County

Thursday, September 3, 2009
Cape Girardeau Police Department school resource officer Mark Wyatt watches over students changing classes Wednesday morning at Central High School. (Kit Doyle)

Two local police departments that applied for a federal grant designed to aid law enforcement agencies fill staff positions lost to layoffs or hiring freezes will not receive any of the $19.6 million stimulus package dispersed among 14 agencies in Missouri.

More than 86 percent of the money was awarded to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, which both received more than $8 million to replace or create 50 officer positions each, according to the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, office in the Department of Justice.

In addition, 12 other agencies, ranging from Parma Police Department, which serves a town of fewer than 1,000 people, to the police department of Independence, Mo., which has a population of more than 110,000 people, received enough money to hire one to three new officers.

The Cape Girardeau Police Department, which lost two patrol officer positions due to the city's hiring freeze, the Jackson Police Department, the Scott County Sheriff's Department and the Marble Hill Police Department were among 243 police and sheriff's departments in Missouri that submitted applications to the hiring recovery program.

"We're two positions down as a result of the budget situation, and we were hoping to be able to fill those," said Cape Girardeau police chief Carl Kinnison.

COPS spokesman Gilbert Moore said the grant program received application requests totaling $8.3 billion, more than seven times what was actually available and a more overwhelming response than administrators could recall seeing before.

"Cities and towns are hurting, they're facing layoffs, they're being impacted by a number of crimes that can be traced to hard economic times," Moore said.

As cities and towns struggle with having fewer officers on the street while maintaining strong departments, they face some tough decisions, Moore said.

Law enforcement agencies that requested money were subject to an analysis based on the financial health of the city, the department's community policing programs and the rate of serious crime in the department's community. Those factors were then used to rank the applicants by priority, meaning the margin between who received funding and who didn't was less than a tenth of a point in some cases, Moore said.

Cape Girardeau ranked the highest priority among the four local agencies that applied, ending up in the 81.7 percentile, with Scott County at 38.1, Jackson scoring 37.4, and Marble Hill ranked in the 30.5 percentile.

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson criticized the disbursement of grant funds in a July 28 news release, pointing out that Hollister, Kennett and Parma were the other rural areas of Missouri that received part of the stimulus package.

"This is our tax money in rural America, too, and we are being shorted on COPS law enforcement big time," Emerson said in a statement.

Emerson cited the COPS grant as an example of the reasons she voted against the stimulus bill.

Those that received grant funding were permitted the amount needed to fill either a total of 50 officer positions or a number equal to 5 percent of the existing sworn officers within the department, Moore said.


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