Will the Gainesville Police Department be allowed to use a $2.8 Million Grant?
The Gainesville Police Department has been granted $2.8 million by the federal government to hire 15 new officers. But the City of Gainesville said they can only have 5 officers, because the grant requires the city to pick up the tab for the new hires in 2014. And a local police union says the city's priorities are out of order.
Well you've heard it before from the Alachua County Sheriff. But this time the struggle over law enforcement funding is between the City of Gainesville and the local Fraternal Order of Police.
The FOP said the Gainesville Police Department needs 15 officers right away, however city staff is saying they won't have the million extra dollars needed to retain the officers in 2014.
FOP President, Jeff McAdams said, "The city has the money to pick up the additional cost, they have to figure out if they're gonna prioritize the need in the community."
McAdams said the police department needs all 15 new officers that the grant allows. But City Manager Russ Blackburn said it isn't financially feasible. Blackburn said, "We did not feel that we really could guaruntee we would have the money avaialble to pay for the salaries and benefits as well as the associated cost as we look further into the future."
Chief Tony Jones recommended in November that the 15 officers be placed to meet the needs in a number of units including traffic and gang control. And McAdams agrees with his recommendation, saying hiring only 5 officers won't cut it. McAdams said, "The officers are very sensitive right now because violence against police officers is through the roof, we need the back up of those additional 15 officers."
So between the City's budgeting realities and GPD's need for additional staff, who determines what levels of staffing are necessary for public safety? Well McAdams said no independent analysis has been done in the last 20 years.
Blackburn said, "We have not done a staffing study recently. In part because as you know and other people in the community know, we've been looking at reduced revenues, not increased revenues....we have to do the very best we can with the resources that are available."
McAdams said the city isn't adequately funding the police department and that a study would prove it. He said, "I think the city is afraid of what the outcome of that study will be. They're afraid of it because it will bring liability on the city if they don't bring us up to the level that staffing study recommends."
Chief Jones said he's eager to hear what such a study would say, but for now is just trying to make the best of what he has. Jones said, "I feel like right now that certainly I'll take all the help I can get. But I also have to live within the means of the City of Gainesville budget."
On Thursday, the grant will be discussed at the Gainesville City Commission meeting. City spokesperson Bob Woods said the Commissioners will decide how to handle the grant then.
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