Coon Rapids seeking federal dollars for new police officers

The Coon Rapids Police Department is seeking a federal grant to hire two new police officers.

Specifically, the city is proposing to add two new community oriented policing services officers.

The grant request is for $435,000 over three years through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office.

Under the federal program, the grant would fund 75 percent of the cost of the two positions with the city picking up the balance.

The proposed 2014 budget that staff has presented to the Coon Rapids City Council includes the city’s share of the funding, according to Police Chief Brad Wise.

“We expect to hear whether the grant has been awarded in September,” Wise said.

No federal grant means no new positions in the police department, he said.

That means the council can remove the city’s portion of the funding from the 2014 budget and tax levy before it gives final approval to both in December, Wise said.

The purpose of the two proposed new positions within the police department is to build community relationships, he said.

If hired, one of the new community oriented policing positions would be focused on rental property issues and working with rental property owners and landlords to ensure they meet their obligations to keep their tenants crime-free as well as to make sure that provisions of the city’s rental license ordinance are being followed, according to Wise.

The second officer would primarily be working with the city’s numerous Neighborhood Watch groups to bring them into the electronic age and expand the use of technology, Wise said.

“We want to enhance the Neighborhood Watch program,” he said.

That will involve using social media, encouraging the use of the city’s new Internet crime mapping tool and the use of the nextdoor.com website, a free private social network for neighborhoods to communicate.

In addition, the expanded program would also have community orienting policing officers focusing on tracking stolen property, according to Wise.

In the past, that could be done through pawn shops, but that is no longer the case and Internet has to be used and that is labor intensive and increases staff time, Wise said.

Coon Rapids currently has three community oriented policing officers – Terry Thomton, who works with the business community; Tom Sharon, who work with the multi-family residential community; and Desiree Toninato, who works with youth, mental health and adult protection issues.

Once the end of the three-year grant period, the onus will be on the council to make a decision on whether to fund the positions entirely from city dollars.

“We will be having that discussion with the council during the budget consideration,” Wise said.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services was established through the 1994 federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.

Since then, the federal agency has provided $11.3 billion in assistance to state and local law enforcement agencies to help in hiring additional police officers.

The definition of community oriented policing is “a philosophy that combines traditional aspects of law enforcement with prevention measures, problem solving, community engagement and community partnerships,” according to the website thefreedictionary.com.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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