Grant to Medford police is a mixed blessing

Feds award $375,000 to hire three new officers, but a partial money match is required along with other conditions

At first blush, a $375,000 federal grant looks like a great deal, but the Medford Police Department isn't ready to embrace the cash windfall.

The department was awarded the grant as part of the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Policing Services (COPS). The requirement is that police agencies will use the money to hire new cops.

The $375,000 grant received by Medford police is the largest of any department in Oregon. The grant would cover the cost of three new officers.

So what's the catch?

"There's more than strings attached," Medford police Chief Tim George said. "There's an entire rope attached."

The grant requires the department to partially match the grant and pick up the full cost of the three new officers after three years have passed.

This would be quite an uptick in the department's budget.

"We will need to take a long, hard look at this," George said. "It would be great to hire three new people, but it does come with a cost to us."

George will discuss the grant with Medford City Manager Eric Swanson in the coming weeks. The department has 90 days to accept or decline the offer.

However, this is an option to accept only part of the cash, George said.

"We could look at maybe only taking half or less than half," George said.

Another stipulation is that the department cannot use the money to plug budget holes or to replace officers who retire. The department is required to add the three new officers to the force, not use them as replacements, George said.

"This is to augment your department," he said.

Junction City, Sutherlin and Winston were the other Oregon cities to receive grants.

More than $125 million will be awarded to police agencies nationally, including nearly $45 million to fund 356 school resources officers.

Since 1995, COPS has awarded more than $14 billion for community policing initiatives, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to pay for the hiring of approximately 125,000 officers, the DOJ said in a news release.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or cconrad@mailtribune.com.


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