Hendersonville leaders are on track to approve the hiring of three additional police officers this fall with the help of a federal grant from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program.
The police department was notified it had been awarded the $375,000 matching grant in late June. The funding will pay for the salaries and benefits of three new police officers over a three-year period and will require additional funding from the city of Hendersonville.
The city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously on July 14 to accept the grant and appropriate the city’s share of $55,700 for the current fiscal year. A second and final vote on the ordinance is scheduled for July 28.
“I think it’s an opportunity for us to hire three [additional] folks,” said Public Safety Committee Chairman Steve Brown.
Brown’s committee recommended the ordinance after a discussion at a special-called meeting on July 2. At that meeting, the committee was told the city had 45 days to accept or reject the funding.
Interim City Administrator Dave LeMarbre asked when the new officers would be hired, reminding committee members that the city had instituted a hiring freeze until January.
“It’s just hard to sell to the other departments and staff we’re going to let this group hire, but nobody else can hire,” said LeMarbre. “I just want you to understand the kind of feedback I’m getting.”
Police Chief Mickey Miller pointed out this is the first COPS grant the city has received in 15 years.
“I hate to turn it down because we may never get it again,” said Miller. “It’s been over 15 years since we’ve been allowed that.”
Miller had asked for five additional police officers in the current fiscal year budget that was approved in June.
“We asked for five additional officers, but that got cut out of this year’s budget,” he said.
When the hiring freeze was discussed during budget talks, Miller agreed to wait until January to hire more officers. If BOMA approves the three officers associated with the grant, the chief says he’ll request two additional officers in January.
“I know we committed to a hiring freeze,” noted Ward 3 Alderman Russ Edwards during the July 14 BOMA meeting. “But we need to take advantage of this opportunity.”
The city currently employs 128 police officers. According to an internal work load study, Miller says his department should have 150 police officers for the amount of work the department performs. Miller hopes to have the new officers hired by September 1.