City Commission to consider accepting grant for portion of cost to hire three new police officers

During their Dec. 21 meeting, City Commissioners will consider whether to accept a federal grant toward hiring three entry level police officers.

The City of Great Falls was awarded a U.S. Department of Justice COPS Hiring Grant for $375,000, which will cover 38 percent of the total cost of hiring those three officers, according to the city.

The grant requires a city match and the federal money is $375,000 or 38 percent of the total cost for the three new officers.

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The match requirements for the city would be $607,645 or 62 percent of the total cost. The grant has a four year timeframe to allocate all funding requirements. The grant further specifies the matching funds are spread over the first three years of the grant, with the fourth year being the responsibility of the City. The four year breakdown includes:

There are associated training and equipment costs, estimated at an additional $13,244 per officer of $39,732 for all three new officers.

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The numbers are estimates and may change as future collective bargaining agreements are ratified, according to city staff.

During the Dec. 7 commission work session, City Manager Greg Doyon told commissioners that the grant is a funding opportunity, but they need to keep in mind that the cost to the city will increase annually and by the fourth year, the city will assume the full cost of the three new officers, or be in a layoff situation.

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The city accepted a COPS grant several years ago and chose to keep all of the officers funded through that program, but the budgets were tight the fourth year, Doyon said during the work session.

The Great Falls Police Department is planning to assign the three officers to the Directed Engagement Team, which is within the Patrol Services Bureau.

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The team is part of the department’s community policing strategy and partners with the Great Falls Mental Health Treatment Court, North Central Montana Crisis Intervention Collaborative, Great Falls Downtown Safety Alliance, Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and Indian Family Health Services “in order to find more effective ways to serve these stakeholders and partners. The DET is also attached to the Violent Crime Prevention Task Force to support the mission of removing the most violent offenders and illegal firearms from our community,” according to GFPD.

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With the grant, DET officer will be directly assigned to work with the city’s mental health treatment court and the North Central Montana Crisis Intervention Collaborative to support those with addiction and mental health needs.