Beaufort News

Beaufort Police Department to go after grant to shore up force

The Beaufort Police Department is hoping federal stimulus money will help bolster a police force that has been hurt in recent months by departures, retirements and a citywide hiring freeze.

Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy said he has applied for a $558,060 U.S. Department of Justice grant that would allow the city to hire and train three new police officers. A citywide hiring freeze imposed late last year has forced the police department to leave posts vacant.

The COPS Hiring Recovery Program grant would cover the salaries and benefits of the new officers for the next three years. Part of the federal stimulus package, the Justice Department will pay out close to $1 billion to hire and rehire law enforcement officers nationwide. The grant requires that officers hired through the program be kept on permanently.

City manager Scott Dadson said the city will find a way then to cover the costs after the federal money runs out after three years.

Clancy said the grant would be used to fill vacancies that will occur when two officers retire in June and by a detective leaving this week to take a job with the FBI.

Since June 2007, the number of city police officers has fallen from 48 to 43.

Clancy said he does not know if he will be able to fill the vacancies if the department does not win the grant.

"This is budget time, so I guess that will be determined as a part of that process," he said.

Though normally opposed to grants, particularly those with strings attached, Dadson said he supports the department receiving stimulus dollars to hire officers.

"Generally, I do not like grants, especially those with these kinds of conditions, but this is a grant designed specifically for departments that have been reduced in size ... and that matches us," he said.