The Common Council narrowly voted 13-7 Tuesday night to accept a $750,000 federal matching funds grant from the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing (COPS) Hiring Program. The grant provided by the DOJ is expected to provide funding for six additional Madison Police Department officer positions in 2023.
According to the terms of the grant, the city will match 25% of the cost in its 2023 budget, and will pay 75% by 2025. After that, the city must cover the entire cost of the new officer positions.
Madison was initially awarded the grant by the DOJ on Nov. 18, 2021. The city was previously offered a COPS Hiring Program grant in 2020, however, the Council declined to accept the federal funding.
During the Tuesday Council meeting, Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes addressed the council, stating that the additional officers hired through the use of the grant will enable MPD to focus on pursuing a trust- and legitimacy-building initiative that aims to connect and improve relationships with Madison youth.
“[The additional officers] would be a great addition to our team because they would not have to divide their attention among some of the other activities that we are asked to do,” said Barnes.
According to Alder Barbara Harrington-McKinney, Dis. 1, who voted in favor of approval, the grant provides much-needed investment in improving relationships between law enforcement and the public, especially young people.
“This is an opportunity to really begin to invest at the ground level and build relationships with young people,” Harrington-McKinney said. “I would much rather have a police officer, just as a mental health officer, show up with compassion and really talk through problems and situations.”
Several alders who voted against accepting the federal grant voiced opposition to the proposal, citing concerns about the cost of such a commitment. Alder Grant Foster, Dis. 15, who voted against the grant, pointed to the large cost of maintaining the funding after the grant expires.
“This sounds like a good deal in the beginning, but we’re talking about adding almost $600,000 per year to our operating budget,” said Foster. “That’s $600,000 per year that could be going to our affordable housing fund. That’s $600,000 that could be going towards our community services funding.”