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    In case some of you missed the story in the Tribune yesterday
    By Robert Channick and Joseph Ruzich, Special to the Tribune
    May 11, 2011

    When the federal government slashed $38 billion from the fiscal 2011 budget last month, few felt the pain more acutely than local police departments.
    The loss of hundreds of millions in Justice Department grants — a casualty of the 11th-hour budget compromise — will affect everything from obtaining bulletproof vests to maintaining an already dwindling police force for some struggling departments.
    "We can't afford to lose any (federal) dollars," said Maywood Police Chief Tim Curry.
    The budget stalemate between Democrats and Republicans, which threatened to shut down the federal government, was resolved by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders just hours before a midnight deadline on April 8. Both sides agreed to reduce 2011 federal spending by $38 billion through September, the end of the fiscal year.
    The Justice Department was among the hardest hit, with nearly $1 billion lopped off the 2011 budget — a 2.9 percent decrease from last year. While officials say national security will not be compromised by the reduced budget, local police departments, many of which are already reeling from the economic downturn, are likely to feel the pinch.
    "In these tight economic times, the budget does affect our ability to fund a number of key programs, to enhance the department's technology and to provide state and local assistance," said Jessica Smith, a Justice Department spokeswoman.
    About 17 percent was cut across the board from a variety of grant programs, including the Bulletproof Vest Partnership, which pays up to 50 percent of the cost of the lifesaving and expensive equipment, which can run upward of $1,000 each.
    Some $296 million was slashed from Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), including a hiring grant that pays salaries and benefits for three years, after which the local department picks up the tab.
    Applications for fiscal 2011 are due May 25, and competition for the dwindling dollars is expected to be intense.
    Curry said the cuts to the bulletproof vest program alone would be a financial burden for the department. Maywood requires all 80 of its officers to wear the vests, Curry said.
    "We have to replace them every five years," said Curry. "That gets very expensive."
    Maywood police officials are also worried about cuts to the COPS grant program, which is paying the salaries of three officers in the department.
    "The program really gives our department a boost," said Curry. "I wonder, though, to what extent we will be able to utilize the program in the future."
    Aurora police Chief Greg Thomas is applying for a COPS grant to help the department hire 10 officers. Illinois' second-largest city currently has 280 officers, according to Thomas, down from 303 in 2009 due to layoffs and attrition.
    "I would really like to get these new officers on the street," said Thomas. "It is disappointing about the (COPS) cuts. I know the economy is tough. But I will, of course, take any new officers I can get at this point."
    Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said cuts to the COPS program may affect his department's specialized enforcement police programs.
    "There may have to be a reduction in traffic enforcement, school zone enforcement and other programs," said Weitzel.
    Weitzel said he was shocked to find out about cuts to the bulletproof vest program.
    "I thought, 'What's next?'" said Weitzel. "It's ridiculous. This keeps police officers safe. We (police departments) have come to depend on that money."
    La Grange police officials are trying to hire one police officer through the COPS program
    "Who knows if it will happen," said Police Chief Michael Holub, who added that he feels the grant may go to another community that is in more urgent need of police officers.
    Holub said La Grange has 27 police officers, which is slightly below its target number.
    "It is disappointing," said Holub of the cuts. "We are losing police officers nationwide. During the Clinton years, we had a significant jump in officers (nationwide). Now it's going down. It always seems to fluctuate.
    Oak Park police Chief Rick Tanksley also noted that federal grants have been slowly dwindling since they peaked during the presidency of Bill Clinton. He said the department has tried to secure as much federal assistance as possible, such as an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to secure federal stimulus dollars.
    "Some might look at a department like ours and say, 'They don't need any money,'" he said. "But we are at our lowest crime rate in years and to maintain that, we need to keep our current staffing levels."
    Oak Park received $106,000 in Justice Assistance Grants, which cover a variety of police initiatives, as well as $4,200 for body armor. Tanksley said the money is used for overtime, to beef up patrols in specific areas and for community outreach events, like a "bike rodeo" to teach children how to ride safely.
    The money is relatively small compared with the department's $17 million budget, but Tanksley said they are for programs that are necessary.
    "This is an event that teaches bike safety to kids," he said. "Some may say it is not a core service, but I think it is an important event."
    Downers Grove officials say they won't feel the pinch — for the most part, that is.
    "We have not become dependent on a lot of that federal funding," said police Chief Bob Porter, which he said was an inconsistent source of money. "Over the last few years we've already seen a lot of our grants getting scaled back and minimized."
    That said, both Porter and Deputy Chief Kurt Bluder say federal grant money — about $6,000 a year — for purchasing bulletproof vests has been always been welcome.
    Bluder said the money saved on vests through the grant could pay the yearly cost for ammunition Downers Grove officers use in target practice and firearms qualifications testing.
    "Any time you can save $6,000 here and $6,000 there, sooner or later you're talking" about significant savings, Bluder said.
    In Naperville, Police Chief David Dial said federal funding hasn't affected the department.
    "What federal money?" he said, adding that the department has seen very little assistance from the federal government by way of grants for at least two years.
    "It's negligible," he said. "We get a couple of small grants for technology-related programs."
    Dial said the department has applied for some grants to hire back some personnel, but has not received them. A small amount of the city's new emergency radio system was furnished by a federal grant, but the lack of government money hasn't affected the department's operations.
    "The burden has been placed on the back of the taxpayers for quite some time," he said.
    The department has made significant cuts recently. In the past three years, Dial said, 24 sworn officer positions have been cut, as well as 15 civilian positions.
    Tribune reporters Jim Jaworski, Brian Slodysko and Mick Swasko contributed.

  • #2
    Berry stay in Florida thread with your politics.


    • #3
      What the hell is a rebupican?
      Prov 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.


      • #4
        Originally posted by pujolsfan146 View Post
        What the hell is a rebupican?
        Now THAT was funny!!!!
        Made my evening! Thanks Pujolsfan!


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