U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), announced the grant Friday. In all, $3.8 million in law enforcement hiring grants were awarded statewide, including about $1 million in north Alabama.
Other police and sheriff’s departments in north Alabama receiving COPS grants are the Etowah County Sheriff’s Department, $261,734; Heflin Police Department, $107,300; Pell City Police Department, $223,626; and Talladega Police Department, $188,759. In addition, the Alabama Department of Public Safety was awarded $1,875,000 and the Mobile Police Department $926,993.
“In the wake of past tragedies, it’s clear that we need to be willing to take all possible steps to ensure that our kids are safe when they go to school,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a press release. “These critical investments represent the Justice Department’s latest effort to strengthen key law enforcement capabilities, and to provide communities with the resources they need to protect our young people. Especially in a time of increased challenges and limited budgets, our top priority must always be the safety and well-being of our children.”
Jasper Police Chief Connie Cooner Rowe said she was thrilled to learn that her department had been awarded the grant, which she said would be used to hire two school resource officers to be placed at Jasper City schools.
“We feel very fortunate to have been selected to receive this grant,” Rowe said Saturday. “What this will do for us is give us two officers for the next three years, and what we’ve said is that we will dedicate these officers to be school resource officers.”
Walker High currently has a school resource officer, but Rowe said the grant will allow for a second officer to be placed at the school. The other officer will be placed at Maddox Middle School.
“There is an officer at Walker currently, and their salary is partially reimbursed by the city school board,” Rowe said. “Our intentions now are to put another officer at Walker and to introduce a school resource officer at Maddox.
“We feel that way because of the ages of the students and because of the campuses,” Rowe added. “Those two schools are where we have our greatest opportunity to impact the school setting in a positive way.”
Overall, COPS grants were awarded to 263 cities and counties, aimed at creating 937 law enforcement positions.
More than $125 million will be awarded nationally, including nearly $45 million to fund 356 new school resource officer positions.
“Keeping our children safe when they go to school is of critical importance,” Vance said. “I am pleased to join the Attorney General and the COPS Office in announcing these grants, which will help provide our communities with the resources needed to accomplish this and other vital law enforcement missions.”
“The COPS Office is pleased to assist local law enforcement agencies throughout the country address their most critical public safety issues,” said Joshua Ederheimer, acting director of the COPS Office. “Funding from this year’s program will allow many cities and counties to apply new sworn personnel to issues related to violent crime, property crime and school safety.”
COPS grants provide the salary and benefits for officer and deputy hires for three years.
Rowe said all officers at the Jasper Police Department have been certified in dealing with active shooter situations, and officers have worked with Jasper City Schools Superintendent Robert Sparkman and other school officials to establish safety plans for each of the city schools.
“We feel good about all those things,” Rowe said, “and this grant is just another component that we can add to all of the thought and all the planning we have put into a comprehensive safety plan for our city schools.”