In August, a $602,000 grant from the Department of Justice provided Newtown relief to the police department for many expenses from the Dec. 14 shooting through June. Now the town is hoping for a follow-up grant to cover costs for two of the full-time police officers walking the halls of Newtown's elementary schools.
The COPS (Community-Oriented Policing Services) Grant is expected to be announced as soon as this week, First Selectman Pat Llodra told members of the Board of Finance. Officials applied for the grant in June, one of several the town has sought since Dec. 14.
"If we're successful, we're eligible to receive enough money to place two officers in our elementary schools, whichever ones we choose," she said. "Every week I call the federal contacts to say, when are we going to hear about the grant?"
If the town elects to take the money, it would cover the costs for two officers for two years, Llodra said.
She told the board she expects an announcement on the grant by the end of this week or next week at the latest. If the status is yes, the Board of Finance will analyze it next week to find the cost/benefit and impact over time.
"I expect we'll be talking about it at the next meeting," she said.
The COPS grant is not set at a specific amount of money, but localized to cover any necessary costs for hiring officers. Before the school year began, Llodra promised "no gap" in police presence at elementary schools on the town site onenewtown.org, pledging to use available funds in the 2013-14 budget to put officers in schools even if the town fails to collect on the COPS Grant.
The $602,000 Department of Justice grant -- part of an overall $2.5 million to state and local police across Connecticut -- was a windfall for the department. Before the budget passed, Newtown's police department publicly acknowledged some strain on officers due to sick leave and overtime. An original proposal from the police commission in February called for 11 new officers to be added to the force.
"Providing support to the law enforcement agencies that responded to the horrific scene that awaited them at Sandy Hook Elementary School is one small action we can take to bring healing to a community that’s been devastated," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said when the grant was released.
The funding compensated Newtown for overtime, forensics and security between Dec. 14 and June 2013.
The town of Monroe has also applied for the COPS grant -- and Llodra said whether they receive funds or not could actually cause a ripple effect for costs in Newtown.
"Their COPS grant is going to support the police presence at the Chalk Hill building," she said. And if Sandy Hook students at Chalk Hill don't have an officer paid through a federal grant, someone will have to pick up the check locally.
"The grant for them is critical," she said. "If they are denied it, we have the obligation to pick it up."