After two years of lobbying, the City of San Leandro has been selected to receive a one-time federal grant of more than $2.4 million to help fund the city’s police force, the city announced on Friday. City officials were notified on Thursday by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that they would be awarded the 2010 COPS Hiring Program grant, which would fund five positions in the city’s police department, the city said. The federal monies are estimated to total $2,417,175 and will be given to the San Leandro Police Department over a three-year period, the city said. The grant comes at a time when budget cuts have driven the department’s sworn officer staffing down to 87 people, the lowest it has been since 1992, according to a statement from the city. Mayor Tony Santos said a “good relationship” and regular correspondence with Bernard Melekian, the director of the Federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, and a strong San Leandro representative presence in Washington, D.C. likely helped them earn the funding after submitting an application in June. “A city council delegation went to Washington, D.C. the past two years during the National League of Cities conferences to lobby for this one-time funding,” Santos said. “Together, we have clearly made a strong case for San Leandro’s public safety needs, and I am so thankful that the city’s efforts have paid off,” he said. Though city officials expressed unanimous appreciation for the funding, several top officials including the chief of police and the city manager say it may not be enough to prevent aggressive cuts to city services under a looming $3 million shortfall in the city budget. “It is clear that our city has public safety funding needs that simply won’t go away,” said city manager Steve Hollister. City officials say voter approval of Measure Z, a quarter-cent sales tax increase placed on the November ballot by the City Council, will make a big impact on the shortfall and prevent future service cuts. Measures to battle the deficit if Measure Z is not passed include laying off seven more police officers and nine firefighters, closing some library branches, reducing street maintenance, and eliminating most youth and senior recreation programs, the city said. “I’m very happy to have secured some help from the federal government during these difficult times, but it isn’t enough,” said police Chief Ian Willis. “It only helps us with five officers when we need to support seven positions at least. With funding from both this one-time grant and Measure Z, we can prevent further cuts to our department,” he said.
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