Lexington police interested in federal grant to fund salaries

The Lexington police department would like to use a federal grant to give its thinning ranks a boost.

The department has prepared its application for the the COPS Hiring Program grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, which would pay entry-level salaries for new officers for 36 months.

This year's pot is $256 million, which will be allocated to police departments across the country that meet specific criteria.

Lexington police have not received a COPS grant in two years, Lt. Doug Pape said. If selected this year, they would use the grant to help replenish their ranks, which are down 60 sworn officers from the 595 positions authorized by city ordinance, he said. An additional 30 officers are on sick or military leave, leaving 505 active officers.

"That includes the chief all the way down to patrol officers," Pape said. Police had not received authorization from the city to submit the application.

The city has to approve the application because it would have to invest money for benefits and equipment, Pape said.

"Let's do all we can to support this application," Mayor Jim Gray said.

To receive the grants, police agencies have to specify how they will use the money to create positions that will aid "community policing" efforts, said Gilbert Moore, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Moore said the grant process is very competitive.

Requests have increased over the last several years as departments across the country have faced budget cuts.

"In 2009, under the Recovery Act, we received $1 billion, the highest funding level in 10 years," he said. "We received $8.3 billion in requests."