Politics & Government

Tacoma nabs $3.4 million grant for police salaries

Tacoma police officials hope a new federal grant will prevent layoffs in the city’s next budget.

The U.S. Department of Justice this week awarded the Tacoma Police Department a $3.4 million grant to pay salaries and benefits for 10 police officers for three years.

The grant is in addition to a $5 million grant the Department of Justice gave Tacoma police in 2012, also to stave off potential job cuts. That grant pays for 15 officers. It expires in 2015, and the Police Department has committed to continue funding those positions through the end of 2016, said assistant police chief Kathy McAlpine.

In its application for the most recent grant, the police department told the feds that City Manager T.C. Broadnax had warned the department to brace for a $4.5 million cut in the 2015-16 budget because of a projected city budget deficit. The department estimated that it would have to lay off 15 officers in December if that cut came to pass.

Without the $3.4 million grant, “the community policing division will be reduced, gang unit and traffic unit could be eliminated, and the narcotics unit could be reduced to only serving on regional task forces,” the application states.

“We’ve lost 60 (officers) in the last couple of years. You’re down to minimal numbers in these specialty units,” McAlpine said Wednesday. “When I was on the drug unit, there were 30-some people. Now there’s 11.”

While the federal grant pays for only 10 officers, McAlpine said she thinks the grant will “significantly help our shortfall.”

“What I’m hoping for is we’ve done our part and we won’t see layoffs,” she said. “We haven’t even seen the final budget proposals.”

Broadnax is expected to unveil his proposed 2015-2016 budget Tuesday.

Tacoma was one of 10 agencies statewide to receive money under the federal Community Oriented Policing Services grant. Others in the South Sound include the city of Fife for $125,000, Federal Way for $500,000 and Auburn for $625,000. Justice handed out $124 million to local law enforcement agencies nationwide.