Oak Bluffs Police Department wins $275,058 COPS grant

Oak Bluffs Police Department wins $275,058 COPS grant

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The Oak Bluffs Police Department will receive $275,058 to keep police on the streets. U.S. 10th District Rep. Bill Delahunt last week announced that Oak Bluffs is one of four Massachusetts towns to receive a grant through the highly competitive U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.

“Obviously we are extremely pleased with this news,” Oak Bluffs police Chief Erik Blake said in a press release. “We appreciate all of Congressman Delahunt’s efforts to secure this funding, and the Department of Justice acknowledgement that we are a deserving community.”

The grant prevents the anticipated layoff of one police officer and allows the town to maintain a staff of 15 fulltime officers, according to the press release issued yesterday.

Town administrator Michael Dutton said it is a very difficult economic environment in which to find grant money. He praised the department for its efforts. “Chief Blake and his staff deserve our thanks for solving budget shortfalls by both cutting back expenses and seeking alternative funding sources,” he said. “The department’s effort to secure this funding was monumental and involved collecting detailed statistics and financial data, as well as making a clear case that the loss of one of our officers would severely hamper our community policing efforts.”

The towns of Abington ($257,964), Barnstable ($1,121,905) and Metheun ($744,727) also received grants.

“I want to congratulate the Abington, Barnstable and Oak Bluffs Police Departments for their hard work in protecting our local communities,” Mr. Delahunt said in a press release issued Sept. 30. “This funding will go a long way to help retain essential law enforcement personnel at a time when our towns are facing very difficult budget decisions in this economic climate.”

The COPS program provides funding to address the full-time sworn officer needs of state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies nationwide, according to a Delahunt press release. CHP (cops hiring program) grants go directly to law enforcement agencies to hire new or rehire career law enforcement officers in an effort to increase their community policing capacity and crime prevention efforts.

CHP also provides 100 percent funding for approved entry-level salaries and benefits for three years for newly hired, full-time, sworn officer positions (including filling existing unfunded vacancies) or for rehired officers who have been laid off, or are scheduled to be laid off on a future date, as a result of local budget cuts. Any additional costs above the approved entry-level salaries and fringe benefits are the responsibility of the departments, the release said.

In recent years, Oak Bluffs’ efforts to overcome recurring budget deficits resulted in cuts to the police department and the threat of layoffs.

Last year, the department relied on voluntary pay cuts and furloughs to avoid layoffs. The fiscal year 2011 operating budget presented to voters at April annual town meeting included a $96,980 cut in the police budget.

Voters at town meeting restored the cuts, but the measure found little support at the ballot box where a Proposition 2.5 request to fully fund the police budget failed by a vote of 348-833.

This summer the police presence on busy Circuit Avenue was noticeably reduced. Lieutenant Tim Williamson said in previous years the department deployed 14 special officers and traffic officers. That number was reduced to seven.