Grant would save police staff

When Costa Mesa police didn't succeed at first, they tried, tried again.

Now, in its second go at receiving federal funding for additional police officers, Costa Mesa is a City Council vote away from accepting a $1.7 million grant to bring five sworn officers on staff, or at least save five positions from being cut.

After an unsuccessful attempt in 2009 to receive money from the U.S. Department of Justice's COPS Hiring Recovery Program for ailing police departments, the city reapplied this year.

The 2010 grant is called the COPS Hiring Program, but is essentially the same. Only cities that applied for the 2009 grant like Costa Mesa and didn't get it were eligible for funding this year.

Costa Mesa was awarded, and needs to accept, what equals five police officers' entry-level salaries with benefits for three years. After the third year, Costa Mesa would have to cover the costs of the employees.

"Any opportunity you have to help supplement your resources in this day and age is really important," said Costa Mesa police Capt. Les Gogerty, the acting head of the department. "It can prevent the loss of jobs or even supplement the force."

The city's police department has shared its brunt of the economic downturn in recent years. Besides repeated contract negotiations between the employee associations and the city, staffing levels have been reduced. Community oriented programs have been cut, veteran officers have taken early retirement and an entire investigative unit was folded.

The department has 17 sworn positions vacant, about 10% of its sworn staffing, Gogerty said. It's among the most sparsely staffed he's seen in his 25 years with the department.

"So far we're managing it," Gogerty said. "Any opportunity to supplement that is excellent."

To receive the grant, the council must accept it by the end of the month. It's still not clear if the money will be spent to hire new officers or to protect jobs that could be in jeopardy as the city's fiscal health is evaluated in the coming weeks and months.

The grant is split with $1,119,540 going directly to personnel pay and expenses, and $642,055 going to their benefits, according to the staff report.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World