By Linda Looney-Bond
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners has voted to accept more than $800,000 in federal stimulus grant money awarded to the county for the hiring of five entry-level police officers.
Commissioners voted unanimously, Tuesday, to accept the $862,035 in funds. The money is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The measure provides for a total of $1 billion to be awarded to 1,046 law enforcement agencies nationwide.
"I'm happy to see that the commissioners were supportive of this grant, and I look forward to being able to hire the additional officers that this grant affords us, especially with it being at no cost to the county taxpayers," said Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner on Wednesday.
U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) announced in July that the Clayton County Police Department was one of four Clayton County law enforcement agencies receiving more than $2 million in stimulus funds, which will be administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
The Riverdale, Morrow, and Forest Park police departments were also awarded federal grant money.
The grants will provide 100 percent of the approved salary and benefits for entry-level police officer positions over a three-year period, according to a press release issued in July by Scott's office. Police departments receiving the grants will be required to retain the grant-funded positions for a fourth year, the release states.
Turner said, when the grant disbursement ends, it is likely that the officers hired under the grant program will be able to transfer to vacant positions that are already funded in the county budget.
"Basically, what you'll see is, through attrition, more than likely, we'll have an open position when the grant ends, so we'll move the five positions into that," he said. "But if not, we would ask the commission to continue to fund those positions," he said.
Turner said the police department is currently seeking to fill 40 vacant, entry-level police officer positions.
"We're looking to hire immediately. I look to being at full capacity by the end of this year," he said.
The department currently has approximately 350 sworn officers, according to Turner.