GJ will get $1.3M to hire 5 more cops

The city of Grand Junction will receive more than $1.3 million in federal stimulus funds to fill five police-officer positions that have been left vacant because of declining revenue.

The money will come through the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Recovery Program. It pays the officers’ salary and benefits for three years, an average of more than $86,600 per officer per year. Local governments are responsible for the costs after the third year.

Deputy Police Chief Troy Smith said two of the department’s vacancies were for new positions approved last year. The other three came about as a result of turnover since the beginning of the year.

A 14 percent drop in city sales- and use-tax revenue through the first six months of the year prompted the department to voluntarily leave two positions vacant. And it led the city to enact a hiring freeze that affected the three other positions.

Smith said the inability to fill openings has reduced the department’s proficiency rate, which is how police officials measure their ability to deliver service. A police officer isn’t considered proficient until he or she has been hired, fully trained and is serving on his or her own, and it can take 12 to 18 months to reach that point, he said.

Although the city received just half the funding it requested — it asked for money to hire 10 officers — Smith said police were fortunate to obtain that much. The government had $1 billion available for the COPS program but received 7,300 funding applications totaling $8.3 billion. The Grand Junction Police Department was the largest individual recipient in Colorado, which received $5 million.

“For us to receive this level of funding is just outstanding,” Smith said. He said the department will begin recruiting to fill the positions immediately.


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