Cities encouraged to apply for police funds

Associated Press

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WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday encouraged cash-strapped mayors and other city officials to apply for their share of $1 billion in new grant money to pay for 5,500 more police officers.

"I think I'm a pretty popular guy because I'm coming with a lot of money," Holder said as he addressed the National League of Cities conference. He invited the city leaders to apply immediately online at the Justice Department's Web site.

"We want to get these new police officers out on to your streets and into our cities and towns as soon as possible," Holder said.

Through the grant program called COPS, the government pays most of the salaries and benefits of new hires in their first three years on the job. The grant can be used to hire new officers or rehire those that have been laid off or are scheduled to be let go. Communities that get the money have to pledge to keep the position filled at least another year after the grant ends.

The Justice Department said the grants will be awarded through a competitive application process that takes into account the local impact of the economic crisis, crime statistics and plans for community policing.

Democrats and Republicans have sparred for years over the program created during the Clinton administration and slashed during the Bush administration. President Barack Obama had promised during his campaign to increase funding for the program and did so as part of the stimulus bill.

Holder said the money will create and preserve jobs, as well as increase crime prevention and community policing.

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