Updated: Portland gets $880K federal grant to hire, retain 6 police officers

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PORTLAND — The White House announced Tuesday morning that Portland will receive more than $880,000 in stimulus money to hire or retain six police officers.

Six positions were on the chopping block during budget deliberations this spring, but police unions agreed to a one-year wage freeze to save the positions. Firefighters, meanwhile, lost nine positions when they voted against the wage freeze and are seeking stimulus funds to reinstate the positions. 

City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said the money will be used to hire six new police officers, bringing the total number of sworn officers to 164 – the size of the force before six positions were cut in the fiscal 2009 budget. She said the officers will be added to patrol units, aimed at increasing the department’s efforts to improve community policing.

Clegg said the city hopes to hire the officers this fall so they can attend the police academy next January.  

The more than $5 million coming to Maine is part of $1 billion in grants for law enforcement contained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for the Hiring Recovery Program, administered by the U.S Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

The program, which is expected to add or retain 30 police officers in Maine, is intended to help law enforcement agencies add and retain the manpower needed to fight crime more effectively through community policing.

The funds are expected to cover 100 percent of the approved salary and benefits for these officers for three years. Each department receiving grants will then be required to retain the grant-funded positions for a fourth year. 

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net

This story was updated July 28 to include comments from Portland City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg.