Police chief looks forward to hiring new officers through grant program
By this time next year, Yuma Police Chief John Lekan anticipates having four new officers on the street with another four in the pipeline and ready to work solo by the following year.
YPD's ability to boost its police force by eight additional officers in the next two years is thanks to a federal grant that will provide a substantial part of the initial cost for the new positions.
The grant of $1 million comes through the U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program. The local share required over the grant period is $751,384. The city also is required to budget for and retain the grant-funded positions after the grant expires, Lekan said.
When it met Wednesday, the Yuma City Council passed a motion to authorize city staff to execute all forms and documents pertaining to the grant.
The COPS grants go directly to law enforcement agencies to hire officers in an effort to increase their community policing capacity and crime prevention efforts. Lekan explained that to get the grant, YPD had to demonstrate its efforts to prevent crime through education, community outreach and problem solving.
“We don't just answer calls and write reports,” he said. “We try to identify the root causes and reduce crime. It's a holistic approach.”
Having the additional boots on the street will “be a nice shot in the arm” to reinvigorate and enhance YPD's community-oriented model, he said.
Recruitment efforts for the new officers began as soon as YPD learned it would receive the grant, Lekan said. And he's pleased with the response.
All new officers hired under the COPS grant must be military veterans.
“We have several applicants who meet or exceed the guidelines,” Lekan said. “I'm excited. We still have to get through the process but it looks promising.”
He feels the timing is probably right as the military downsizes. And Yuma is in the right place to attract veterans, with Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and Yuma Proving Ground here and several other military installations in the region.
Applicants can apply online at the city of Yuma's website at http://yumaaz.gov, or in person at the human resources office at Yuma City Hall, One City Plaza.
Lekan said the process of hiring and training a new police officer typically takes nine months to a year.
In other business, the council voted to postpone action until Oct. 3 on a proposed new repayment schedule for the Community Development Block Grant that helped fund the construction and development of Main Street Cinemas. The proposal would allow the borrower to make lower payments interest free due to declining business.