Shawnee police are set to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants to hire new community policing officers and buy body cameras, city officials announced this week.
The grants come as part of two national initiatives by the Department of Justice to help local police forces hire more officers to focus on community policing and to promote body-worn video cameras among police.
Shawnee has been awarded $625,000 over a three-year period for hiring community policing officers and a $44,003 grant to help outfit all patrol officers and sergeants with 78 body cameras by June 2017.
The public has clamored for law enforcement to adopt body cameras after recent fatal shootings that sparked protests, including most recently in Tulsa, Okla.; Charlotte, N.C.; and San Diego.
In a statement announcing the grant awards, Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler said the money contributed to the city’s number-one priority — safety.
“We are looking forward to using this federal grant to strengthen our police department and help the men and women who work so hard to keep our community safe,” Distler said.
The body camera grant, which requires a 50 percent local funding match, would make the Shawnee police department one of the few law enforcement agencies in the Kansas City area to adopt the devices across all patrol units.
The Kansas City Police Department announced last month a three-month test equipping 25 officers with body cameras. The Clay County Sheriff's Office and Lenexa police already have equipped their patrol and field officers with body cameras. The Unified Government in Kansas City, Kan., recently approved funding for body cameras.
The community policing grant, administered through the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, will help Shawnee pay for five new officers in time for the spring 2017 police academy. The money is meant to cover up to 75 percent of the entry-level salaries and benefits for the officers over three years. The grant requires a 25 percent local funding match.
Shawnee was one of two Kansas cities to receive the community policing grant, along with Wichita, which is to receive $875,000. Nationwide, the COPS program is distributing $119 million in community policing funds.
Julie Breithaupt, a spokeswoman for the Shawnee, said the need for the grants came in part from expected growth, especially in the western area of the city.
“We’re always wanting to kind of beef up our police department, so if we can get more officers to cover our city, and if there’s an opportunity for the federal government to help pay for that, then certainly we want to pursue that,” Breithaupt said.
Before receiving the money, the Shawnee City Council must formally accept the grants and approve the matching funds. The council is scheduled to do that on Nov. 14.