Menendez, Booker, Payne Announce $4.4M COPS Grants to Enhance Public Safety in NJ, East Orange, Essex County, Jersey City

Menendez, Booker, Payne Announce $4.4M COPS Grants to Enhance Public Safety in NJ, East Orange, Essex County, Jersey City

Call out GOP for threatening gov’t shutdown, putting first responders in cross-hairs of budget battle

EAST ORANGE, NJ – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, and Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) today announced $4,357,166 in federal funding to put more police officers on the streets and enhance narcotics and gang enforcement operations. The grants are awarded through the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), but funding for first responders and other vital programs have been put in jeopardy while the Republican House threatens to shut down the government and hold grants like these in limbo.

“These grants will help protect our communities and keep our residents safe,” said Sen. Menendez. “The fact is—we know that budgets are tight, choices are difficult, but public safety is our bedrock responsibility, and it is the responsibility of government leaders to provide it. We can’t let Republicans continue to put vital public safety grants at risk over political brinksmanship.”

“Our first responders should never fall victim to politics in Washington,” said Sen. Booker. “Today’s announcement shows how important these programs are for New Jersey communities and our public safety. We need to invest in programs that innovate and enhance the effectiveness of community policing, not cut them.”

“This funding will ensure that East Orange and Essex County have the officers they need to reduce crime and improve the safety of residents through enhanced community policing,” said Rep. Payne, Jr. “Putting these funds at risk is an abandonment of our shared duty to protect the public, and it is an insult to the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. The security of our residents and our communities should never be threatened by partisan politics.”

The following grants were announced:

COPS Hiring Program (CHP) Awards

  • East Orange Police Dept.                      $1,500,000             12 officers
  • Essex County Sheriff’s Office                 $750,000                6 officers

COPS Anti-Gang Initiative (CAGI) Awards

  • Essex County Prosecutor’s Office             $594,023
  • Jersey City                                                 $750,000
  • N.J. Dept. of Law and Public Safety         $659,916

COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force (AHTF) Awards

  • N.J. Dept. of Law and Public Safety         $103,227

CHP addresses the full-time sworn officer needs of state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies while advancing public safety through community policing. Jurisdictions applying for the grants were asked to identify how the CHP grants would help enhance community policing in a specific focus area; CHP provided additional consideration to jurisdictions that identified “Homicide/Gun Violence,” “Homeland Security Problems” or “Building Trust” as their focus area.

“The COPS grant will be most helpful to our department’s school resource efforts.  It will enable us to dedicate officers to safe corridors and ensure that our youngsters are protected as they travel to and from school while it is in session,” said Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura. “The grant will also allow us to bolster our staffing levels and increase our ability to prevent crime through community policing programs. Based upon the volume of demands that we get from locally elected officials, community organizers, our clergy and our neighbors, we will now be able to deploy more officers on our streets.”

CAGI provides funds directly to law enforcement agencies with a multijurisdictional partnership composed of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to address gang activity.  Primary consideration was given to agencies that target gangs of national significance.

“Gang violence remains a serious problem in Essex County, fueling many shootings and homicides. With this much needed grant money we will be able to redouble our continuing anti-gang initiatives,” said Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray.

AHTF is designed to advance public safety by providing funds to investigate illicit activities related to the distribution of heroin or unlawful distribution of prescriptive opioids, or unlawful heroin and prescription opioid traffickers through statewide collaboration.

“No matter how much we invest to beautify our parks, modernize our roads or support our residents, our efforts are worthless if we don't keep our neighborhoods safe and secure,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said. “The issues to which our law enforcement agencies respond are becoming more and more violent – guns, drugs, gangs, crimes – and the budgetary constraints with which they are faced cause them to become more and more creative with dwindling resources. I applaud Senators Menendez and Booker and Congressman Payne for focusing their attention on this important safety initiative and providing our police and prosecutors with the support they need to make a difference.”

In East Orange, Mayor Lester Taylor said the police department plans to use the federal funding to hire 12 new school resources officers (SROs), whose ranks fell from 34 to four over the past decade. 

“These SROs will be doing much more than policing our schools,” said Mayor Taylor. “They will also serve as mentors and help to rebuild a foundation of trust and cooperation among our students.”

The grant announcements were made at a press conference at East Orange City Hall. Last week, DOJ awarded a combined $107 million in CHP grants nationwide, which included an additional $2,937,015 to hire a combined 25 officers in the Camden County and Wildwood Police Departments, and nearly $6 million each nationally in CAGI and AHTF funding.  

This year’s CHP grants provide 75 percent funding for approved entry-level salaries and benefits for three years (36 months) for newly-hired, full-time sworn officer positions (including filling existing unfunded vacancies) or for rehired officers who have been laid off, or are scheduled to be laid off on a future date, as a result of local budget cuts.  Any additional costs above the approved entry-level salaries and fringe benefits, up to $125,000, are the responsibility of the grantee agency.

New Jersey’s Senators have long pushed for funding of this vital program. Last year, Sens. Menendez and Booker led a letter signed by 34 Senators urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to fund CHP at the highest possible levels in fiscal year 2015, the source of this funding. This March, both Senators again led a letter signed by 33 Senators urging the highest possible funding in fiscal year 2016.