No federal grant for Coon Rapids to hire officers

The Coon Rapids Police Department won’t be getting a federal grant to hire two new community oriented policing services officers.

The grant request was for $435,000 over three years through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office.

According to Police Chief Brad Wise, 23 grants were awarded in Minnesota through the federal program, but Coon Rapids was not one of them.

Twenty of the grants were evenly divided between the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments, while the other three grants went to small town departments to hire police liaison officers for their high schools, Wise said.

“We are disappointed, but that is the world we live in,” he said.

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

The original 2014 budget that staff presented to the Coon Rapids City Council in early August included the city’s share of the funding.

But when the council ordered a 1 percent cut, some $275,000, in the proposed budget, the city’s share of the first year of the cost of funding  the two new officers was among the reductions.

The city’s matching funds were set aside in the general fund balance and could have been allocated had the federal grant been approved for one or two new officers.

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

The purpose of the proposed new positions was to build community relationships, according to Wise.

One of the new community oriented policing positions would have focused on rental property issues and working with rental property owners, landlords and tenants to ensure that provisions of the city’s rental license ordinance are being followed, Wise said.

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

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

That would have involved 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.

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

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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