Farmington Police Department receives $750K grant to hire new officers

Steve Garrison
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A $750,000 federal grant will help the Farmington Police Department hire an additional six officers dedicated to community policing.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services awarded the grant, which will fund 75 percent of the new officers' salaries and benefits for three years, according to a press release.

Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes estimated the city will need to provide $150,000 in fiscal year 2015 to pay the new officers. He does not expect the city will need to increase its budget that year to accommodate the cost.

He said the city would have hired the six additional officers, regardless of whether the department received the grant.

"What this grant does is help get us up to full strength," he said. "It's a way that we can take advantage of some federal programs that help to subsidize the costs of our officers."

Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe said his department currently employs 125 full-time officers but is budgeted for 131.

Two of the new officers will be used to increase the department's presence at San Juan College, Hebbe said.

"We are increasing visibility to show people that we are involved up there," he said.

According to crime statistics provided by the department, police responded to 258 calls for service at the college last year, with the highest number of calls related to traffic accidents, non-specified emergencies and intoxicated subjects.

A call for service does not necessarily indicate a crime was committed at the campus, said Jerry Worrell, a Farmington crime analyst, in an email. The calls for service also do not indicate how many incidents campus security responded to instead of police.

Hebbe said two officers will work with the department's district coordinator unit, dealing with inebriates in the city's parks and investigating crimes committed downtown. Two more officers will work with the city's Joint Intervention Program, a trial program that provides court-monitored care and supervision to inebriates who cycle between homelessness, arrest, incarceration and detox.

The department's grant application — available on the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services' website — emphasizes the Joint Intervention Program and how additional officers could enhance it.

The six officers will patrol parks to identify potential participants for the program, work with program staff to monitor the progress of participants and take part in community outreach, such as attending neighborhood watch meetings, the application states.

The department acknowledges in the application that it has struggled to develop trust with Farmington's Native American population, and the program is one way it intends to address that.

The six officers will each receive a $46,326 salary in their starting year, with regular pay increases allotted over the three-year grant period, the application states.

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services' hiring program provided $124 million in grants in fiscal year 2014 to fund nearly 950 officers nationwide. The office, which aims to advance community policing, has awarded more than $14 billion in grants to local, state and tribal law enforcement agencies since 1995. The agency defines community policing as a way to "proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues, such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crimes."

Grant recipients were chosen based on their proposed community policing strategies, fiscal need and violent crime rates, according to the press release.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.