With just days before the city commission’s vote on its budget for the coming year, the Tallahassee Police Department has received a grant that will help pay for 15 new police officers. Now commissioners are grappling with what that means for the city’s spending plan.
The 15 police officers covered by the grant would be focused on community policing. TPD Public Information Officer David Northway says that’s different from the 18 police officers the city has already been planning to hire through a property tax increase.
“The 18 additional officers would make it so our patrol officers who are on patrol day-to-day would have more time to do that type of situation, which is where they are getting out and getting to know their community members a little better. But these 15 would be on a dedicated squad, that would not be again, not have any connection with the officers that we’re asking for patrol,” Northway says.
Northway says the 15 would be part of what’s called the COPS program or Community Oriented Policing Squad.
“They’re the ones you see on the bike squad and they would be in the neighborhood and they would be working specifically with different areas of town to reach out and establish those great community contacts,” Northway says.
Mayor Andrew Gillum called the grant a great opportunity when he spoke Tuesday at a local business meeting. Gillum says many people don’t know the officers coming into their neighborhoods, but that hasn’t always been the case.
“When I was younger we knew the officer who was coming into the neighborhood. It would almost always be the same ones that were coming back. Ms. Jackson on the corner knew them. My mom knew them. My grandmother knew them because these were the ones that were in your rotation.”
Gillum says because of growing demand, that doesn’t happen anymore. But he thinks the new officers will help to address that.
The grant can only be used for officers that haven’t already been budgeted for or hired. And it requires a 25 percent match from the city, and a promise to keep the officers employed for a year after the grant runs out. It also requires money for purchasing bikes, vehicles, uniforms and other supplies. City commissioners say figuring out how that fits into their budget, which is scheduled for a final vote Thursday, will be difficult. The commission is scheduled for a vote on whether to accept the grant later in October.