By Conor Shine, Las Vegas Sun and U.S. News Agency / Asian
A $1.75 million federal grant awarded Monday to the North Las Vegas Police Department will help keep more than a dozen police officers on the street in the cash-strapped city.
The department received the grant through the Community Oriented Policing Services’ hiring program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. The police department received similar funding in 2010, said spokesman Sgt. Tim Bedwell.
“We’re really excited to get it. We’re looking forward to working with the city to decide the best way to apply the grant,” Bedwell said. “Times have been lean. We try to get any of the grant funds that are out there to keep as many officers on the street as possible.”
The grant will provide three years of funding to hire or retain 14 patrol officers, or about $125,000 per officer over the life of the grant. Bedwell said the grant wouldn’t cover the full salary and benefits of each officer, but would help defray costs for the department.
“The grant specifically lets us hire military veterans, rehire laid-off officers or keep other officers who could potentially be laid off,” Bedwell said.
As the city government struggled with multimillion-dollar budget deficits over the past several years, the North Las Vegas Police Department has lost about 150 officers through attrition since 2008, said Mike Yarter, president of the North Las Vegas Police Officers Association.
Earlier this month, the city declared an emergency related to its dire fiscal situation, allowing it to suspend union contracts and avoid paying scheduled salary increases in a move designed to help close a $30 million budget gap with minimal layoffs.
Yarter said he hoped the city would use the grant money to hire new officers, not to cover salaries of existing officers so the savings can be used in other departments.
“I hope they use that money to go hire some people rather than just applying it to the people we have here and using that money to free up the general fund,” Yarter said. “We’ll see whether or not they apply this money correctly. It’s to add more cops, not to pay for the ones who are here.”