The Bradenton Police Department will pursue a $124,000 federal community policing grant to hire four new officers that, if successful, could put the officers on the street later this year.
The COPS community policing hiring program, through the U.S. Department of Justice, pays up to 63 percent of the officer salaries for the first three years, with the city responsible for the remaining portion of the salaries, or about $23,600 per officer per year. After three years, the city must commit to fully funding the positions for at least 12 months.
Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith supported the grant application, but said if the city committed to retaining the officers full time, it would cost close to $200,000 a year.
“I’m not opposed to to more officers. I just get tired of these federal bait-and-switch programs,” said Smith. “I would prefer it be a budget discussion and not a grant discussion.”
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Proposed new positions include: Cold case homicide investigator Traffic enforcement officer Animal abuse officer Narcotics officer
Police Chief Melanie Bevan said she is “fully prepared to defend our request. We discussed the appropriate number at length and went with what we felt would work well in our budget. I’ve taken a long time looking at our cases and response times, and it’s important to have people dispersed more quickly for better coverage to our community.”
I’m fully prepared to defend our request.
Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan
Bevan said there are 2.2 officers per 1,000 residents in the department.
“That’s OK, but it means our officers work harder than officers in other cities, but I’m happy to have this discussion at budget time.”
Police department facts: From 2009-2015, police calls increased by 12.5 percent. During same period, force strength was reduced from 122 positions to 118 in 2012. Current force strength is 120.
The council approved the application request Wednesday, which if successful, includes a one-time expenditure of $29,600 to equip the potential new officers.