LOMPOC, Calif. - Police agencies across the country are preparing for cuts they might make if Congress doesn't reach a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. Federal grants to police agencies could be at risk if a deal is not struck.
Federal grants to local police departments can pay for equipment, research, and even law enforcement programs. For the Lompoc Police Department, a federal grant pays for some police officer salaries. These grants are being threatened by the looming fiscal cliff, which could mean these jobs would be gone.
Lompoc Police Chief Larry Ralston says he's been given a heads-up regarding the status of a federal grant his department received in 2011. The grant is a "cops hiring grant", which covers the salaries of 3 full-time police officers for 3 years.
Ralston says the fiscal cliff threatens the funding from that grant.
"You know, we're a smaller agency and when we have one position vacant, we feel that," says Ralston. "So having three positions vacant can be very important to us."
Melissa Radabaugh lives in Lompoc and says police patrol around her home is important. She has 7 kids, the youngest of them 2 years old.
"We have a young thriving family and I want them to be able to be safe outside," says Radabaugh.
Lompoc's police department currently has 47 officers that are out in the field. If he loses 3 from that total, Ralston says he still intends on having 47 officers available for patrol.
"If we have to give up 3 positions, we're going to have to find 3 positions to fill from other sources," says Ralston.
If police officer positions are cut, it could end up impacting school outreach programs as well as other police units.
"Where it would affect us is our community services outreach," says Ralston. "We'd have to assign a couple of our officers from community services or detectives or gang units to fill the patrol hole."
Chief Ralston says it remains to be seen how the 3 federally funded positions would be dealt with if a deal is not struck in Washington by January 1st. But he remains hopeful that nothing will have to be done in the end.
"We're going to have faith that our legislatures can work it out and we're going to be back in business without to much appeal in government," says Ralston.
Chief Ralston says he didn't know the exact dollar figure that the grant provides yearly for these 3 positions. But he did say that with benefits, officers salaries come out to around $110,000 a year.
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