WASHINGTON – A $24 million Justice Department grant will fund 202 new officers in Maryland – 200 in Baltimore City and one each for Garrett County and the little town of Hancock.
“I was tickled to death,” said Garrett County Sheriff Paul R. “Dick” Simmons Jr. of the upcoming addition to his 17-member department.
Baltimore won big in the round of Community-Oriented Police Services (COPS) grants released this week, with a $24.1 million grant to add 200 officers to the 3,100-strong force. It was the largest single grant and the largest number of officers awarded in the country in this round of grants.
The Justice Department will pay Baltimore more than $120,000 per officer over three years, which will fund roughly 90 percent of the additional officers’ salaries and benefits, according to police officials.
Hancock, which has a three-man force for roughly 1,900 people, will get $75,000 over three years to hire an additional officer.
Hancock Police Chief Donald R. Gossage said the additional manpower would allow his department to expand its patrols to 20 hours per day, and reduce the need for off-duty officers to be called in for service.
Gossage said he was “excited” when he found out about the grant Thursday morning from the media. The department is already looking at candidates and expects to hire someone in 30 days, he said.
The department, which receives about 1,600 calls for service per year, used to have four officers, but was having trouble competing with the salaries offered by the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, Gossage said.
Simmons said the Garrett County Sheriff’s Office already has one officer from the COPS grant program. He gave much of the credit for the most recent funding to Sens. Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski, Baltimore Democrats.
Simmons said the 30,000-person county needed additional officers after a building boom over the last 15 to 20 years. He asked for three more deputies from county commissioners, who funded one with the condition that he obtain funding for another from COPS.
Simmons said the department frequently hires officers who have retired from other Maryland law enforcement agencies and want to move to “God’s country.” He said his office plans to advertise in metropolitan-area papers to try to woo an experienced officer.
“Our crime problem in minimal compared to other areas,” he said.
The COPS program funds 75 to 90 percent of the salary and benefit expense for officers for three years, on the condition that the receiving department keep the officer for at least another year at its own expense.
Kristen Mahoney, director of grants for the Baltimore Police Department, said the reimbursement rate for Baltimore was higher than other jurisdictions because of the city’s “financial distress”. The city received a waiver, which allowed the Justice Department to reimburse the city at a higher rate.