Congressman Dennis Cardoza on Tuesday announced Merced police will receive a $1.1 million federal grant, which will go toward retaining four entry-level officer positions.
The funding was awarded through the Community Oriented Policing Services hiring program. The program provides funding directly to law enforcement agencies to help create and preserve jobs, according to Cardoza's office.
Although a statement from Cardoza, D-Merced, said the $1.1 million grant would be used to hire four "new" officers, Chief Norm Andrade on Tuesday clarified that the money will be used to keep existing officers on the force.
Due to the fiscally tough times facing the city, layoffs remain a possibility at the department. Negotiations are ongoing between the city and union representatives with the Merced Police Officers Association and Merced Association of Police Sergeants.
Andrade said he won't know whether layoffs are necessary until those talks are complete.
In the worst-case scenario, where layoffs appear imminent, Andrade said the $1.1 million would help save some jobs. "That's a good thing for us and the department, and keeps seasoned officers on the street," Andrade said.
The department has 84 sworn officers, compared to 111 six years ago. Andrade said the $1.1 million grant will fund the positions for three years.
The COPS program is designed to increase law enforcement's community policing abilities and support crime prevention efforts, according to Cardoza's office.
One major change in the program for 2012 is called "Vets to Cops" and requires that all new officers hired through the grant be military veterans who have served at least 180 days of active service at least partly on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
The Merced City Council has 90 days to accept the grants, and the city must chip in $250,000. Because the grant funds entry-level officers, the city would have to pay the difference if the funds are used to retain those with more experience.
The COPS program has provided more than $11 billion in funding to state and local law enforcement agencies, according to Cardoza's office.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.