City officials expressed delight Monday after learning that they have been awarded a $750,000 federal grant to hire 10 police officers during the next year.
"That's great to hear," Police Chief Ron Lowenberg said of the Justice Department's Community Oriented Police Services grant. "I'm tickled about it."
The grant--part of a $144 million package to add 792 officers in five California jurisdictions--was announced at a press conference in Los Angeles by Vice President Al Gore. The other recipients are the city of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, Sacramento and Sonoma County.
"Having this federal funding will be of enormous help," Huntington Beach Mayor Shirley S. Dettloff said.
The need for additional officers was first indicated, she said, by an independent audit, which concluded that the city's police department is understaffed based on the population it serves.
"With our officers working overtime and double duty, we have been able to keep the city safe," Dettloff said. "But you can't have your police officers working at such a level that they burn out."
The addition will bring the city force to 240, Lowenberg said. "Right now we're in a back-to-basic mode," he said. "Summer's over, so they'll be on regular patrol to handle the day-to-day calls."
The city will begin hiring immediately, the chief said; still it may be 1999 before all the new officers are in place and trained.
In Los Angeles, several officials have expressed skepticism about that city's ability to continue paying for the new officers after the grant runs out in three years. In Huntington Beach, where the federal aid will last slightly more than one year, there will be no such problem, the mayor said.
"We have already projected in our budget that we will hire the extra police officers," she said. "We had projected that the grant wouldn't last forever--the money is there to support them and to continue them."