Stimulus money doesn’t cover all law enforcement requests
By Nomaan Merchant
MINNEAPOLIS — Tuesday’s announcement of more than $11 million in federal stimulus dollars was great news for a few police departments in Minnesota, but not nearly all those that had applied for a slice of the cash.
St. Paul and Minneapolis were the biggest beneficiaries, getting $9.3 million to hire 41 officers between them. Twelve other departments get enough to pay for a single officer each.
The $11.58 million in grants will fund the officers’ salaries for three years. Each police department will then have to pay the officers for a fourth year.
Meanwhile, applications from 185 other police agencies in the state were denied.
The grants are part of the COPS — Community Oriented Policing Services — Hiring Recovery Program, which was included in the $787 billion stimulus bill. Towns that applied were judged on their finances, reported crimes and level of community policing. Each town was assigned a score on a 100-point scale, and grants were paid from the top of the list on down until funds ran out.
The Obama administration accepted about one of every seven requests for aid nationwide.
The other recipient agencies in Minnesota were: Olivia, Brooklyn Center, Park Rapids, Big Lake, Waite Park, Columbia Heights, Pike Bay, Mahnomen County, Isanti, the Leech Lake Tribal Council, the Upper Sioux Indian Community and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.
For the 14 Minnesota agencies that did receive money, Tuesday was a day to celebrate.
In Isanti, a town of 2,300 that’s one hour north of Minneapolis, a $220,000 grant means the city will keep its full complement of seven officers. One of those, Chief Ron Sager said, had been stressed out because he expected to be laid off.
Sager said when he got the news, he made a jubilant call to the officer.
"When I called him, I told him, ‘You can finally sleep now, you can finally go to bed,’" Sager said.
Police in St. Paul got $6.1 million to pay for 28 new hires, but the department will still be 14 officers short, said police spokesman Sgt. Paul Schnell. Minneapolis got money for 13 officers.
A worsening economy and deep cuts to state aid — cities can expect to lose $192 million this year and next — will make it tough for some cities to avoid slashing public safety budgets.
"At some level, the cuts are so deep that you really have no choice but to consider reductions," said Gary Carlson, intergovernmental relations director for the League of Minnesota Cities.
St. Cloud, which had requested nine officers, came up empty. Assistant Chief Richard Wilson said he was disappointed, adding that the department was holding open five positions due to a hiring freeze.