BANGOR, Maine — Members of Maine’s congressional delegation announced Thursday that that the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, has awarded a combined $1,640,979 in grant funding to nine local law enforcement agencies in Maine under the COPS Hiring Program.
The program provides federal grants to create and preserve law enforcement jobs. It provides full funding for approved entry-level salaries and three-year benefits for newly hired, full-time, sworn office positions and for rehiring officers who have been laid off or are scheduled to be laid off by budget cuts.
“As longtime supporters of the COPS program, we are pleased Maine law enforcement agencies will receive this important funding,” U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins said Thursday in a joint statement.
Said U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud: “The COPS program has been providing crucial support to our local police departments for years. This news couldn’t come at a more important time. These investments will not only help keep Mainers safe, but they will also save jobs that would have been lost due to the economic downturn’s effect on our state and local budgets.”
Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin said that, to his knowledge, the $166,581 grant award announced Thursday was a first for his department.
“It was an unexpected surprise, and it’s really appreciated,” Asselin said. “It was very competitive. I was taken aback by the fact that we were approved.”
Asselin said the new officer who will be hired with the grant money would do patrol work and help with community programs, including more involvement with schools.
Asselin said the department now has 12 full-time officers including him. It is in the process of filling a vacancy, so the grant will enable the department to grow to 14 full-time officers, plus two more who are working for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.
Sgt. Eric Erickson of the Presque Isle Police Department said the department’s $161,109 grant would enable it to increase its total number of sworn officers from 19 to 20.
“We’re more than pleased to get this funding, especially in the economic times that we’re dealing with,” he said. He said the new hire is subject to final approval from the City Council and city manager.
Veazie Police Chief Mark Leonard learned of his department’s $156,747 grant award Thursday morning.
“We applied [in an earlier round of applications] and had been denied, so when it reopened, we tried it again,” he said. “We are ecstatic. I think it’s a great opportunity for the town.”
Leonard said Veazie now has a police force of 11 officers, four of them full-time. He said the grant would be used to add a fifth full-time officer.
If the Town Council votes to accept the grant, the new full-time position will be posted in-house first, he said.
When contacted Thursday, Penobscot Indian Nation Game Warden Supervisor Tim Gould had been working in the field all day and had not yet heard his department had been awarded a $150,306 grant.
“That’s great news,” he said. He said the money would be used to create a new entry-level warden position, bringing the tribe’s total to three full-time and two part-time wardens.
“I’m really excited, because there hasn’t been a lot of funding available,” he said.
This year, however, things are turning out differently.
News of the COPS grant came a month after the tribe’s police department and warden service learned they will receive more than $300,000 in federal funds to upgrade communications and buy patrol vehicles and an airboat for water rescues.
Other Maine agencies awarded grants were Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department, $225,321; Kennebunkport Police Department, $217,047; Oakland Police Department, $183,464; South Portland Police Department, $167,981; and York County Sheriff’s