Arizona municipalities this month are trying to decide whether they can afford to apply for a stimulus program offering free federal money to hire police officers, the Arizona Republic reports. The federal Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Recovery Program will dole out $1 billion as part of the new federal stimulus law. The money covers 100 percent of the full-time entry-level salary and benefits for a new or rehired officer for three years, but carries a cost. The municipality doesn’t have to provide any matching funds, but would have to cover the cost of vehicles and equipment for these officers and then take over the responsibility for their salary and benefits after three years.
Scott Butler, Mesa’s intergovernmental-relations director, said the COPS program has existed since the Clinton administration, but didn’t get much funding under former President George W. Bush. Mesa was always leery of the program, Butler said, because it would oblige the city to long-term spending. One of the deterrents in the past,” Butler said, “is that, unfortunately, it’s not free money.” Under the stimulus package, Butler said, some rules might be loosened. Chandler, Az., is still looking into the details, Chandler Management Services Director Dennis Strachota said. “The Police Department is looking into it but one of the larger concerns is having to make a commitment to continue those positions after three years,” he said. “Given the current state of the economy, that may be problematic.”