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CPD, NCSO to receive stimulus
Funds to go toward new equipment, investigators

COVINGTON - Washington dollars will soon be arriving in the coffers of local law enforcement agencies as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The Covington Police Department has been allocated $37,787, while the Newton County Sheriff's Office is set to receive $155,917.

"We have to tell exactly what we're going to spend the money on. The chief has chosen to use that with other funds to purchase digital wireless video/audio cameras for police cars," said Lt. Wendell Wagstaff of the CPD. "With the system we have now, we are running the old VHS tapes and they have to be downloaded to a computer, have to be stored, etc. The new system hardly has to be touched. It's basically done automatically through the hardware to the server."

Sheriff Ezell Brown said he's decided to use the funds he'll receive for two crime scene investigators and two CSI vans, as well as 30-odd M/A-COM walkie/talkie radios for the uniform division in order to "better serve the sheriff's office and the citizens of our county."

The funding for law enforcement agencies comes through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program.

"The grant allows states and local governments to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime and improve the criminal justice system," Brown said, adding that the funds can be used for technical training, personnel, information systems and other improvements that are related to criminal justice.

"Not every law enforcement agency got these grants," Wagstaff said. "The amount of the grant was based on your crime statistics and population."

According to the Bureau of Justice Assistance Web site, neither the Oxford Police Department nor the Porterdale Police Department received grants.

Two stipulations for receipt of the funds is to receive approval from the agency's governing authority and hold a public hearing to discuss the grant.

"We've already gone to the City Council about this, and we have to hold a hearing for citizen comments about anything on this grant we are pursuing," Wagstaff said.

The CPD public hearing is set for Monday, May 11, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Covington Police Department courtroom, located at 1143 Oak St.

The subject of the hearing is the "Recovery Act: Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Formula Program: Local Solicitation."

Citizens who cannot attend the hearing may call Wagstaff at 770-786-7605 during the listed time.

Brown said he will announce the date of the NCSO public hearing at a later date. He also said that his office is currently pursuing an additional $500,000 dollars in competitive funding.

"We are hopeful we'll secure those grants as well," he said.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com