Money for officers may go unused

Published 11:53 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2009

NATCHEZ — Some federal money on its way to the area for the hiring of new officers and deputies could go unused.

Natchez Police Chief Mike Mullins said the cost prohibitive nature of using the federal money means his department likely won’t be using it.

But just when the money gets here, or how thoroughly it will be utilized, remains to be seen.

Email newsletter signup

At a multi-agency luncheon Tuesday afternoon, Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Steve Simpson told officers and deputies from counties like Adams, Amite, Jefferson and Wilkinson that approximately $22 million in stimulus funding has been allocated to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.

And it’s that money that should be funneled down to local law enforcement agencies, Simpson said.

Simpson said the money coming in will be used to fund two pre-existing grants that were at risk of losing funding due to state budget cuts.

The first grant, a COPS Grant, is given to agencies to fund the salaries of up to three new officers or deputies for three years and mandates the agency keep the deputy or officer employed for at least one year after the first three years of funding.

And while three years of salary funding sounds good, Mullins said he would not recommend the City of Natchez accept the funding.

“It’s very expensive,” Mullins said of accepting the funding.

While the grant funds the salaries, the other costs associated with hiring new officers are not covered by the grant and must be paid for by the NPD.

And those other costs add up fast.

For one officer, hiring costs and new uniforms amount to $4,410, benefits cost $2,520 and once its time for the NPD to pay the fourth year of salary, including pay raises, they owe about $33,000 in salary pay.

Additionally each time the department hires two new officers, they need one new vehicle.

Once the vehicle and equipment for the vehicle are purchased, the cost comes to approximately $27,500.

Mullins also said the department is fully staffed and has no need for new officers.

Adams County Sheriff’s Office Jail Administrator Charles Harrigill said while he acknowledges the cost associated with hiring new deputies, he’s open to the funding.

“We’ll have to take it up with the (Adams County Board of Supervisors),” he said. “I’d hate to pass it up.”

Harrigill said the sheriff’s office does not have a shortage of deputies but would like to hire more if possible.

“If they’re going to fund more (deputies) we don’t want to turn them down,” he said.

But there is grant money coming that both Harrigill and Mullins would both gladly accept.

The second grant, a Byrne Grant, will provide funding for both agencies to purchase new equipment and technology.

Mullins said the NPD has been tentatively approved for $48,000 in grants.

Harrigill was not aware of any funding allocated to the sheriff’s office.

“All they’re telling us is ‘soon’,” he said.

Harrigill said funding could be used for more vehicles and equipment, while Mullins said the funding would likely be used for technology upgrades at the NPD.