Council accepts $385,000 grant for more police officers

Published 9:33 am Wednesday, November 10, 2010

FRANKLIN—The City Council on Monday unanimously agreed to accept a grant that will cover the salaries and benefits of two new police officers for a three-year period.

The grant, provided through the U.S. Department of Justice, is estimated to provide $385,310 over the three-year period.

“The grant pays for salaries and benefits, fully,” City Manager June Fleming said. “The grant does not pay for the police car, uniform…things of that sort.”

Fleming suggested the two officers be hired in different fiscal years so the city’s costs could be staggered. Equipment for the two officers is estimated to cost just less than $50,000 each.

The police department under spent its budget last year and those savings could go toward outfitting the first officer, she said. Equipment costs for the second officer would be built into next fiscal year’s budget.

Councilman Greg McLemore said some of his constituents had concerns about a lack of black officers patrolling his ward.

“I would contend that if we go with this program, we would also utilize it for an opportunity to bring some more African-American officers into a city that’s predominantly African-American,” he said.

In response, Police Chief Phil Hardison said the department was “representative of the demographics” of the community.

“I can’t guarantee you anything, but a fair process,” Fleming told McLemore. “I understand what you’re saying and I understand what your constituents are saying. I will do the best I can and stay within the law.”

Each police officer is assigned a vehicle, which leads to better-maintained equipment and makes it easier for officers to respond to violent events, which are occurring at a greater frequency, Hardison said.

“We are seeing much greater movements within the gang culture here, from the Latin Kings to the Bloods to our own local homegrown gang initiatives,” he said. “The vehicle is a benefit to the citizens.”

The city is required to fund the positions at least one additional year after the three years of grant funding. The city’s cost to retain the two officers for the fourth year will likely be around $66,562 per officer.

Councilman Don Blythe raised concerns about where cuts would come from to fund the new officers and whether it would cause a tax increase later on.

“We had citizens come forward and say their safety was of vital importance,” Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson said. “Some of them agreed that a tax increase might be necessary, but I hope we don’t have to go there.”

Fleming said she couldn’t say what specific items would be cut from the budget.

“Where would I start looking? I can’t really tell you that tonight, but I would find it and I would cut somewhere,” she said. “But something won’t get done. You can’t do everything and more with less money.”

With two new officers, the city will have 32 police officers.