LE Stimulus Wish List

WASHINGTON -- A federal stimulus program to fund 6,000 police…

WASHINGTON — A federal stimulus program to fund 6,000 police positions has drawn requests for 30,000 officers from U.S. law enforcement agencies, according to Justice Department officials

By today’s application deadline, more than a third of the 18,000 police agencies in the U.S. are expected to seek government aid to avoid layoffs or hire new officers, department spokesman Corey Ray said.

In Sacramento, for example, city police officials are seeking federal funds to restore 80 positions lost during the past 18 months because of budget problems, Sacramento police spokeswoman Laura Peck said.

Allentown, Pa., police Capt. Daniel Warg said his agency is seeking money for 30 officers. Fifteen positions were lost during the past year because of municipal budget problems. Warg said the department also hopes for 15 extra officers to inch closer to the 242-officer force the city had about five years ago. The department now has 199 officers.

Warg said the department has been shrinking even as property crime and gang activity have grown. The staff decline, he said, has left the department with just enough officers to respond to 911 calls.

“We’ve been trying to do more with less for a long time,” Warg said.

States requesting the largest number of officers are among the hardest-hit by the economic decline, according to Justice Department records:

*California police agencies are seeking money for more than 1,600 officers.

*Illinois and Ohio departments are requesting more than 1,000 positions each.

*Texas agencies want money for about 950 officers.

The hiring program, which is likely to issue its first grants this summer, reflects a Clinton-era initiative that funded more than 100,000 officers. Vice President Biden has been a major supporter of the program, and President Obama’s budget suggested the hiring initiative will continue, although the prospects for long-term funding are unclear.

Grant award decisions will be weighted heavily on communities’ financial needs, in addition to rising crime rates, Ray said.

“I think there are going to be some hard decisions,” Ray said of distributing the three-year grants totaling $1 billion. “We won’t be able to make everybody happy.”

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