Plaistow wins federal grant for new officer

October 06, 2010

PLAISTOW - There soon will be a new cop in town, thanks to a federal grant announced yesterday.

The Plaistow Police Department is one of just seven in the state to receive the Department of Justice grant. Plaistow received $231,502, which will fund a new officer for three years and give a detective more hours for investigative work, according to police Chief Stephen Savage.

The Community Oriented Policing Services hiring program, commonly referred to as COPS, provides grants to departments across the country that need funding to increase their numbers.

The grant provides 100 percent funding for the new officer for the next three years, with the exception of expenses such as uniforms and equipment, which add up to less than $2,000.

At the end of the three years, it's up to the town to fund the position.

"We were mindful of what happens in year four," Savage said. "We will budget in full for the position. I hope, three years from now, the economy will be much improved."

The chief said the department had been trying to acquire a few new officers to fill gaps in staffing, but the economic downturn put those plans on hold.

"The grant is a godsend," Savage said yesterday. "The grant will allow us to hire an entry-level officer and add some investigative hours to one of our officers."

The DOJ awards the grants every year, according to Dan Jasnow, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who advocated in Washington for the grant.

"I'm sure the assistance is appreciated in a really difficult economy," Jasnow said. "But it's an annual program, so it is not in direct response to the economy."

Savage said the department is working on a shortlist of candidates for the new position.

"The selectmen have yet to formally accept the grant, which they will do in the next 30 days," Savage said. "We'll have to start the process. We're probably ahead of the curve because I have a vacancy we're looking to fill. I would anticipate, with any degree of luck, we will hire someone by the first of the year."

Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald worked with Savage and others on the grant.

"I'm very pleased that Plaistow was one of very few communities in New Hampshire that sought and was awarded funding," Fitzgerald said. "We've been very aggressive this past year. We've really sharpened our pencils and taken a hard look at available grant programs, and we'll continue to be aggressive. It is a smaller community and it's often difficult to compete with larger communities that have more staff and resources. But with these recent grants, we've proven we can be extraordinarily competitive."

He said he is especially grateful to Shaheen and U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., for the work they did representing Plaistow in Washington.

"This is an extraordinary beneficial program for the town," Fitzgerald said. "It's through powerful advocacy that the town can count on having additional staffing for some of our most pressing community policing responsibilities that we often don't have enough resources for."

By:  Cara Hogan
Source: Eagle-Tribune