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Martinsburg gets COPS funds, but Pa. towns don't

July 28, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Announcements were made Tuesday regarding stimulus money awarded to police departments that asked for assistance in retaining or hiring officers.

The City of Martinsburg, W.Va., was awarded $357,074 from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program to hire two additional police officers, according to a press release from the state's congressional delegation.

Smaller communities such as Waynesboro, Chambersburg and Greencastle boroughs and Washington Township in Pennsylvania apparently lost their bids for funding, with cities including Philadelphia and Harrisburg getting the bulk of grants in that state. Pittsburgh did not receive funding.

Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcements in Philadelphia. They said the money was sent to places with the highest crime rates and biggest budgetary problems.

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"These officers will go to where they are needed most," Holder said.

A list posted on www.cops.usdoj.gov shows Hagerstown, Washington County and Boonsboro applied for grants, but did not receive them. Gov. Martin O'Malley's office announced eight Maryland agencies are receiving a total of $23.2 million.

Carroll Sturm, chairman of the Washington Township Supervisors, said he heard Tuesday that the demand for grants greatly exceeded the availability. However, he had not been told the township was denied.

"We got an e-mail with something about there was $8.5 billion requested and only $1 billion available," Sturm said.

The Associated Press reported for every $1 to be delivered, another $7 in requests will go unanswered under the stimulus package grant program. A total of 6,000 applications were rejected.

The Washington Township Supervisors threatened that police layoffs could occur in October when they applied for a grant. That grant would have funded two positions for three years.

Sturm acknowledged Tuesday the threat was made in large part to strengthen the grant application.

"We had to make that decision to get it," he said. "Maybe they could see through that, I don't know."

Although the supervisors are not committed to the layoffs, they know "everything is on the table as far as the budget goes," Sturm said.

COPS, through the Department of Justice, selected 19 departments in Pennsylvania to receive more than $20 million combined. Twenty-six law enforcement agencies in West Virginia were awarded a total of $5 million to hire, rehire or retain 35 officers.

O'Malley's office said Maryland will use stimulus money for up to $10,000 in equipment, including radios, for newly hired officers.

The Justice Department estimates the grant awards will help hire 3,818 new officers and retain 881 positions that otherwise would be lost to budgetary belt-tightening.

That makes a total of 4,699 officers -- still short of the program's announced goal of hiring 5,000 officers.

After three years, agencies that receive COPS funding are expected to absorb the added personnel cost for a minimum of 12 months.

New York City asked for almost $650 million from the COPS program. It got zero. Local lawmakers of both parties called the decision a disgrace and an outrage.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, said the federal government has a "perverse" inclination to send money to failing programs instead of ones that work.

Staff writers Andrew Schotz and Matthew Umstead, and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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