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As the city of Springfield continues to grow, so does the demand for a stronger police department. With the help of federal grant money, the Springfield Police Department is planning to increase its police force, and reestablish other programs previously cut. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann talked with a spokesperson for the SPD and files this report.
The department is in the early stages of deciding how to use a recent grant totaling over 700,000 dollars from the U.S. Department of Justice. Matt Brown is spokesperson for the SPD. He says that Police Chief Williams will ultimately decide which programs and areas will be affected, but that the number one priority is safety on the streets.
“First and foremost every officer is looked at in terms of strength on the city, and manning a beat. And that’s where we always focus our efforts. The backbone of the SPD is simply 911 calls, and making sure we have enough officers to cover those shifts. Once those shifts are completely covered, then we start looking at specialty positions. And that can be anything from a detective to programs we’ve had to do away with,” says Brown.
For example, the police department has had to get rid of the drug-fighting D.A.R.E. program.
Brown says the strength of the police department is its ratio of officers to civilians. Brown says the grant will increase the strength of the police force by adding several needed positions.
“Well what that does is it increases the strength of the police department. So, instead of just paying for five normal officers, it is five additional officers on the force with the SPD. It’s not just paying for five police officers, it’s increasing our size by five more,” Brown says.
By adding these five new positions, the SPD would be authorized to have a force of 331 officers, even though there are currently only 318.
Brown says that like most agencies applying for the grant, the department cited its financial difficulties. He adds the department must comply with a lengthy reporting process, and explain exactly where the money goes.
“It’s a federal grant and usually it’s awarded to several police department agencies across the U.S. The grant awards police officers for three years. That pays for their salary for the three years to include academy, and everything about being a police officer. It covers everything from A to Z. Once that grant runs out it’s up to the city to maintain financial responsibility of those police officers. So, the city then would have to pick up the salary at that point,” says Brown.
Brown says the SPD anticipates hiring these new officers in the next training academy cycle. He says officer graduation rates are based on the total number of positions available, including vacancies. For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.