More than 50 law enforcement officers will be back walking the beat in the Tampa Bay area after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday that stimulus money would be used to hire and rehire officers across the country.
As part of the COPS Hiring Recovery Program, St. Petersburg will hire 10 officers. Other local agencies getting stimulus dollars include police departments in New Port Richey, Pinellas Park, St. Pete Beach, Plant City and Tarpon Springs.
In St. Petersburg, the community and police engagement program will become a permanent 10-officer unit by using the grant money, Chief Chuck Harmon said. Hiring will begin immediately.
Officers will try to reduce violent crime in distressed neighborhoods. This year's program targets Bartlett Park, the Grand Central District and Historic Kenwood, police spokesman Bill Proffitt said.
The grants pay for entry-level officers' salaries and benefits for three years. Local agencies must keep the positions and pay the officers in their fourth year.
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office will receive more than $4.4 million for 24 deputy positions.
"This means 24 more professional jobs in Pasco County … to help bolster our economy," Sheriff Bob White said.
Tarpon Springs police Lt. Barb Templeton said the department applied for funding for three patrol positions that have been unfilled for almost two years.
"We're a 50-person department, and that struck us pretty hard," she said.
Tarpon Springs will receive two positions, but Templeton said she was grateful for any.
"There was $8 billion in requests and only $1 billion in money," she said.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office didn't apply for any of the money, said Sheriff Jim Coats.
"I don't know if we were willing to risk the fiscal liabilities three years from now," he said, noting that the economy may not turn around.
Across the state, more than $87 million was awarded for 420 positions.
The Justice Department received more than 7,200 applications for more than 39,000 positions.
Jackie Alexander can be reached at (727) 893-8779 or firstname.lastname@example.org.