Fort Bend officials seeking grant to hire 20 community police officers

MISSOURI CITY, Texas (KTRK) -- Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office officials plan to apply for a federal grant that, if awarded, would allow the office to hire 20 new patrol deputies who would engage in community policing in rural areas of the county.

County commissioners at their June 1 meeting gave their approval for the sheriff's office to apply for the Community-Oriented Policing Services Office hiring grant program through the U.S. Department of Justice.

Executive Maj. Manuel Zamora with the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office told the court that the grant funding would be used to hire 20 patrol deputies to focus on areas with the most poverty, crime and community need. Deputies would work to identify problem areas, engage with community stakeholders and collaborate with those stakeholders to resolve the problems.

"The long-term goal is to enable communities and their partners to help solve the problems in their communities. ... Ultimately, it will work toward getting the right number of deputies on the streets," Zamora said.

County Judge KP George said the need for additional deputies is evident.

"There is no question about the need," he said. "When I talk to small-city mayors, those who don't have a police department, they're always saying they need help, and the only hope they can get is from the sheriff's department."

Questions from the commissioners centered on the funding for the positions.

The grant is a three-year continuous grant with a 25% county match, Zamora explained. According to county documents, the total cost for the positions would come to about $1.44 million. The sheriff's office plans to request about $1.08 million in grant funds, which would make the county's match about $360,000.

The funds would not cover the cost of additional vehicles that also would be needed, Zamora said.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers said previously that the practice of the court has been that once grant funds go away, the positions go away. However, Zamora said, the sheriff's office staff would hope to keep the positions funded after the three-year period expires.

"We would have 20 additional personnel that are now involved with the community, they're engaged in the community and then they're capable of responding to problems in the area," he said.

The commissioners gave their approval for the sheriff's office to submit an application for the grant program, which is just step one of the process. Any further action, including acceptance of a grant award and commitment to meet the matching requirements, must later be approved by the court.

This story comes from our ABC13 partners at Community Impact Newspapers.
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