Nearly nine months after Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain told Vancouver councilors the city needed to either add more officers or “just make the commitment that we’re going to lower our expectations,” a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will allow the Vancouver police force to hire 10 new officers.
The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant will add four neighborhood officers, four bike officers and two crime analysis-intelligence officers to the Vancouver Police Department.
Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes told Vancouver City Council on Mon., Oct. 3, at the regular council meeting, that the grant is part of the city’s “approach to providing long-term resources to the police department.”
In May of this year, the Vancouver City Council voted to support an application for 10 new police officers. The COPS grant provides three years’ worth of funding for the new officers. After that, Holmes said, the city “picks up costs in the fourth year and beyond.”
Chief McElvain, who had urged the city council in January to find funding for an additional 42 Vancouver police officers by the year 2020, said the COPS grant will help the department plug service gaps that occurred “as a result of the economic downturn and reduction of staffing several years ago.”
“We look forward to implementing our long-term plans, which include enhancing community policing to build trust between members of our department and the community we serve, improving efficiencies and solidifying public and private partnership opportunities, and efficiently addressing identified crime areas and trends through effective crime analysis and intelligence,” McElvain said.
The community service grant was one of the largest awarded by the Department of Justice in the 11 western states, Holmes told the Vancouver city councilors on Monday.
“It was a very significant award and reflects our need our [police] department has for more resources,” Holmes said.
In a press release sent out on Mon., Oct. 3, McElvain thanked Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler for their assistance in securing the $1.25 million COPS grant and said the 10 new officers will allow the Vancouver Police Department to “continue to adapt community policing strategies and proactively respond to the changing needs and priorities of the community.”
U.S. Congresswoman Herrera Beutler, who represents Southwest Washington’s third congressional district, which includes the city of Vancouver, said it was an honor to support Vancouver’s efforts to increase the size of its community police force.
“I’m thankful for Vancouver’s law enforcement who work so hard to keep us safe and am pleased to have helped bolster their efforts through this important grant,” Rep. Herrera Beutler said. “We all want our downtown and neighborhoods to remain safe, which is why I’ve been a strong advocate not only for the federal COPS grant program, but for Vancouver’s application for this grant.”
Vancouver’s $1.25 million grant was one of hundreds awarded through the COPS grant program this year. In total, the program gave $119 million to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to hire officers and increase community policing throughout the U.S.
According to a press release from the Department of Justice, the COPS program has invested more than $14 billion since 1995 to promote community policing in all 50 states as well as on tribal reservations.
Three other Washington communities received COPS grants this year, including Walla Walla, which received a $250,000 grant for gun violence prevention, and the city of Burien, which received a “social disorder” grant for $375,000. Like Vancouver, the city of Auburn also received a community engagement grant. At $750,000, however, Auburn’s grant was considered a “small award” compared to Vancouver’s “large award” of $1.25 million.
Vancouver City Council still needs to approve the final acceptance of the grant and provide a funding strategy for the required, local cash match as well as a plan for funding the 10 police positions over the long-term, after the grant’s three-year funding period ends.