Butte-Silver Bow will combine a $250,000 federal grant with its own money to hire, train and then pay two new police officers for at least four years.
That will bump the number of full-time, sworn officers here from 49 to 51 – the first increase since Sheriff Ed Lester took office two years ago and one he says will make a difference.
“We will see a real benefit and not just because we’ll have more officers, although that in itself has been proven to reduce crime,” Lester said Thursday. “But we can focus on one particular area and have an impact there. Once you get something under control, it’s a lot easier to manage.”
Under a plan approved by the Council of Commissioners Wednesday night, the county will receive a $250,000 COPS Hiring Program grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
That will partially pay the wages and benefits for two officers over three years, though the county has to make a 25-percent match – or $62,500 – and then cover everything in the officers’ fourth year. The county’s costs over the four years could be about $400,000.
The department cannot reduce its force during the term of the agreement, Lester said, and it must show the two additional officers are having a measurable impact.
Lester said the officers must be hired and then go through three months of studies and training at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, followed by 12 weeks of field training. So it could be six or seven months before they hit the streets.
When they do, the plan is to then assign two veteran officers to a specific duty.
They could be assigned to a particular neighborhood that is having problems, Lester said, or focusing on drug issues or domestic violence investigations.