The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office has been awarded a $1 million grant that will allow the hiring of eight new School Resource Officers, officials said.
The funding will pay for the SROs for three years with the requirement that the county pick up the cost for a fourth year.
There are currently 16 SROs funded through the sheriff's budget and the city and the county schools provide two each for a total of 20.
Sheriff Jim Hammond has said he wants the SROs added at the lower grade levels and not just in the high schools.
The grant covers full salaries as well as equipment.
He said before the grant is accepted the County Commission would need to agree to fund the fourth year of the program. He said there would no be obligation on the part of the county after that.
Sheriff Hammond said the county had requested $1.4 million.
In announcing the COPS grants, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “In the wake of past tragedies, it's clear that we need to be willing to take all possible steps to ensure that our kids are safe when they go to school. These critical investments represent the Justice Department's latest effort to strengthen key law enforcement capabilities, and to provide communities with the resources they need to protect our young people. Especially in a time of increased challenges and limited budgets, our top priority must always be the safety and well-being of our children.”
Overall the COPS Office funded awards to 263 cities and counties, aimed at creating 937 law enforcement positions. More than $125 million will be awarded nationally, including nearly $45 million to fund 356 new school resource officer positions.
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said, “Keeping our children safe when they go to school is of critical importance and I am pleased to join the Attorney General and the COPS Office in announcing these grants which will help provide our communities with the resources needed to accomplish this vital mission.”
“The COPS Office is pleased to assist local law enforcement agencies throughout the country address their most critical public safety issues,” said Joshua Ederheimer, acting director of the COPS Office. “Funding from this year’s program will allow many cities and counties to apply new sworn personnel to issues related to violent crime, property crime, and school safety.”
The COPS Hiring Program offers grants to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to hire or rehire community policing officers. The program provides the salary and benefits for officer and deputy hires for three years.
Grantees for the 2013 hiring program were selected based on their fiscal needs, local crime rates, and their community policing plans. There was an additional focus this year on agencies requesting assistance in developing school safety programs that would include the hiring of a school resource officer. School resource officer positions funded by the COPS Office are sworn law enforcement positions that work within a school district or facility, interacting directly with school administrators and students.
The COPS Office is a federal agency responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. Since 1995, COPS has awarded over $14 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of approximately 125,000 officers and provide a variety of knowledge resource products including publications, training, and technical assistance.
Grants in East Tennessee also included $112,282 to the city of Clinton and $439,077 to the Johnson City Bureau of Police.