Anniston police Lt. Brett Lloyd on Tuesday drove around much of Anniston patrolling for drivers running stop signs and others without their seat belts on.
“Usually I do administrative work, but lately I’ve been out patrolling with the rest of the officers on my shift,” he said. “We could use more manpower.”
With the help of a $500,000 grant from the Department of Justice, Chief Shane Denham hopes to alleviate some of the stress on his officers by hiring four more. The federal agency’s Community Oriented Policing Services program announced Monday that Anniston’s department was one of two in the state given money from the grant. The department also agreed to cooperate with federal immigration agents as a stipulation of the grant.
“This is a big deal for us,” Denham said Tuesday while sitting in his office. “This is going to have an impact in all our divisions.”
The grant will fund salaries for four officers for three years and then the city will have to pay for a fourth year, according to an agreement for the grant, Denham said. In years past the department had been awarded money from the same grant but was unable to apply the last time, the chief said.
“I approached the former city manager and asked if we could apply for the grant again,” Denham said, speaking of Kent Davis. “We were looking for ways to increase our manpower again so he was all for it.”
It wasn’t until this summer that the application opened up again, Denham said, and “it was a mad dash to cobble all the pieces together.”
“It’s only open for a month,” he said.
Each application is graded and those given the highest points are awarded money, the chief said. This year, applicants were given more points if they agreed to work with immigration officials when the occasion called for it.
“We had to look at the immigration stipulations and see if we could adhere to them,” he said. “Basically, we have to not be a sanctuary city and anytime we arrest someone without legal status we have to allow immigration agents to interview the person.”
Denham said “it’s few and far between” that Anniston police arrest immigrants without legal status.
“It doesn’t really happen here,” he said.
Currently, the city’s budget allocates enough money for the Police Department to hire 85 uniformed officers.
“We have 80,” he said. “Four of those just graduated from the academy and another four are doing their field training. So we basically have 10 that cannot be on their own yet covering their own zone within the city.”
Denham said he’s looking to hire five officers now, but with the grant he could hire up to nine.
Historically, the department has struggled to keep seasoned officers because they get “a lot of experience fast” and they’re sought after for that reason. The chief said the city’s support right now might entice his current and any new officers to stick around for more than a couple years.
“This budget year has been the best we’ve been taken care of in a while,” the chief said. “Everyone got a two and a half percent raise and those that have topped out got a bonus. Anyone that’s been here three to seven years got an additional bump on top of that raise.”
Denham said the city also increased hazard pay for officers. While money is a good incentive, the chief said, he hopes an increase in manpower will keep some of his officers from getting burned out.
“With more on a shift, we can spread the call volume out more,” he said. “It’ll ease the burden.”