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Local police agencies get stimulus funds

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

Four police agencies in Clayton County will receive a share of more than $2 million in federal stimulus funds to hire police officers, U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) announced Tuesday.

The funds are 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.

Police departments in Riverdale, Morrow and Forest Park, along with the Clayton County Police Department, will receive the grants, which will allow some laid-off police officers to be rehired, according to Jennifer Wright, assistant press secretary for Scott.

The Clayton County Police Department will get $862,035; Riverdale Police will receive $288,150; the Morrow grant is $294,846; and Forest Park Police will receive $579,567, Scott said. The grants will be administered by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), Scott added.

"It's important that we get as many cops out visible in the community, and that's exactly what this does," Scott said in a phone interview.

"From the folks in Clayton, Forest Park, Morrow and Riverdale, and our congressional office staff - we all went to work to get this money for Clayton County. It was teamwork," Scott said.

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 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.

"That [grant] would be enough for us to fund five officers for three years," Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner said. "It's a win- win situation. Not only for the police department, but also for the citizens of Clayton County, because it allows us to put more officers on the street, and the general fund is not affected ... for the first three years."

"We hope the county will pick up the personnel [after three years] and allow them to continue their employment with the county," Turner said.

All agencies that received the funds had to apply for the grants, Scott said.

"It's going to benefit us tremendously by supplementing our force with two officers," Morrow Police Chief Jeff Baker said.

The funds will also help Riverdale Police pay for two new officer positions, according to Sgt. Nicole Rabel, the police department's spokesperson.

"We're very grateful that we would be chosen to be the beneficiaries of this money. We believe it will ... provide an added unit to prevent crime and protect the citizens who live and work here," Rabel said.

A Forest Park Police spokesperson could not be reached for comment Tuesday.