Budget-squeezed police departments, some of which have had to shed officers as the economy sank deeper into recession, have a new financial lifeline through a federal stimulus program that will help departments hire and retain officers or rehire those who have been laid off, says the Newark Star-Ledger. Federal officials began accepting applications yesterday for its Hiring Recovery Program, part of the $787 billion stimulus package. The program makes available $1 billion for police departments across the country. The Obama administration projects it will create or save 5,500 law enforcement jobs.
The police hiring program fully funds entry-level salary and benefits for each position for three years. Departments must agree to keep — and pay for — those jobs for at least a year after the federal investment ends. The infusion could make a big difference in cash-strapped towns like Maplewood, which had planned to lay off three police officers by the end of the month. Since the end of January, nearly 360 New Jersey police officers statewide have either lost their jobs or been threatened with layoffs because of budget woes, according to the New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association.