Stimulus to put more police on Manatee streets

MANATEE — Some local law enforcement agencies in Manatee County will maintain or add to their forces thanks to $2.7 million in federal grants awarded Tuesday.

As a part of President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 66 law enforcement agencies in Florida received a total of $88 million to hire or retain a total of 428 officers.

Locally, Bradenton Police Department received $1.1 million to retain six patrol officers and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office received $1.6 million to hire nine new investigators.

The stimulus package is funded through the COPS Hiring Recovery Fund, a $1 billion federal grant program that creates and preserves police jobs across the country, according to a federal Web site.

With homicides in the county at what appears to be an all-time high with 22 deaths this year, Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said part of the grant would pay for an additional new four new homicide detective positions and four new detectives in the gang unit. A sergeant will also be hired as a part of the investigative unit.

“Basically, I’m going to have twice the people in the gang and homicide units I have now,” Steube said.

With detectives working to put gang members behind bars by building racketeering cases, he said new detectives in the gang units would allow detectives back on the streets to curtail violence.

“Hopefully, it will cut down drive-by shootings and other gang activity,” he said.

The new positions will become effective Oct. 1.

The grant pays for the positions for three years. In the fourth year, local municipalities are expected to fully pay for the positions, according to officials.

Nationally, more than 7,200 law enforcement agencies applied for grant funding and 1,046 received funding.

The Bradenton Police Department was looking at possible cuts had the grant not been awarded, said Police Chief Michael Radzilowski.

“We would have to lay off six uniformed patrol positions,” said Radzilowski. “Thank God it didn’t come to that.”

Bradenton Police Department currently has five patrol vacancies, he said.

“For a city of almost 55,000, the bare minimum of officers you need is 122,” he said. “Anything below that, you don’t have as many as you should have. ... The city is still growing and the work load is growing with the city.” The police department currently has 117 sworn officers.

Some retiring, ranking officers were never replaced in order to save costs, Radzilowski said.

In Sarasota County, the sheriff's office received $363,476 to hire two new deputies, and the Sarasota Police Department received $2.2 million to retain nine police officers, according to released statements.

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