The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is working its way back to full-staffing capacity in a critical program, the Community Oriented Policing Services, thanks to a new federal grant.
The Sheriff’s department was one of 23 California law enforcement agencies to receive funding from the COPS Hiring Program Grant awarded by the Justice Department this week. The overall grant amount nationally is $240 million; more than $71 million will be spent to fund 190 police officer positions in California.
“As cities in California continue to confront difficult budget cuts, I am pleased that this funding will put more police officers on the streets to protect our families and communities,” said Senator Barbara Boxer. “It is common sense – more cops on the beat means less crime.”
While the City of Santa Clarita did not specifically receive grant funding, COPS team members often work around the city in the unincorporated areas, so local residents will see a benefit.
Lt. John Voza of the Sheriff’s COPS Bureau said that the $8.5 million from the grant will help rebuild the bureau that has been affected by recent budget cuts.
“When the COPS bureau started in the 1990s, it was funded by federal money, but in 2002, federal funds ran out,” he said. “But the Board of Supervisors continued the funding because they could see the benefit. At that time, there were more than 200 sworn officers in the COPS bureau, but with budget problems, we’re down to less than 150 officers.”
Voza said that the Sheriff’s Department requested funding for 50 positions in its grant request and were awarded 25.
“We were given one of the highest number of positions,” he said. Only four agencies in the state received funding for 25 positions: the cities of Oakland and Sacramento and the Sacramento County Sheriff.
“The COPS bureau has deputies assigned throughout the county to unincorporated areas and their main responsibilities are working on quality of life issues in those areas,” Voza said. “That includes everything from crime problems, gang issues, vandalism; all of the life issues such as parking problems, speeding vehicles and street vendors.”
“The grant will provide 25 additional deputy sheriffs to work on community policing efforts including these quality of life problems, so it will be a huge advantage for us,” he said.
The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), a program long supported by Senator Boxer, gives hiring grants to help bolster police forces. The grants provide all of the approved salary and benefits for entry-level officer positions for three years and require police departments to retain the grant funded positions for a fourth year.