Possible TPD Stimulus Grant Put To Reality Check

Wednesday, May 27th 2009, 4:57 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley and Scott Thompson, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The Tulsa Police Department is going after $13 million in stimulus money to add patrol officers to the force.  But, it comes with a catch.  The $13 million would pay for three years of employment for the new officers.  But, it's what's in the fine print that has city leaders wondering what will happen when the stimulus money runs out.

The Tulsa Police Department is 75 officers short of what it needs, according to a recent audit.  But TPD officials say they've found a way to make a dent in that number and get more officers on patrol.

"There's a $13 million windfall, if you will, available within a very narrow timeframe," said TPD Deputy Chief Daryl Webster.

The $13 million comes in the form of stimulus money; it would pay the salaries and benefits for up to 67 new officers for the next three years.  But, there are a couple of wrinkles.

The city would have to spend $3 million to train and provide equipment for the new officers.  Plus, the grant requires the city to employ the officers at least one year after the grant expires unless the positions are eliminated.   

"I don't think that's anyone's intention at the police department or at the city but we haven't, we don't have any plan how to pay for this if we get it," said Tulsa City Councilor G.T. Bynum. 

Deputy Police Chief Daryl Webster understands the financial concerns but says with $13-million dollars on the table the opportunity is too big to miss.    

"The point is if we don't swing we're never going to get a hit. If we don't apply we're never going to have the opportunity to decide whether it is economically feasible to retain these officers," said TPD Deputy Chief Daryl Webster.

But, Councilor Bynum says with furloughs and jobs cuts on the horizon, a plan should already be in place before the city has to pay a multi-million dollar bill.

"I can't agree with the idea that let's just commit to this and we'll figure out a way to pay for it down the road.  That's too reckless of an approach," said Tulsa City Councilor G.T. Bynum.

The application deadline for the grant was mid-April and TPD says it had to make a quick decision on whether to apply for the money.  There's a good chance the entire grant will not be awarded, but whatever Tulsa gets, whether it's enough for one officer or 50, the city has to either accept it or turn it down.