The U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday that the Montebello Unified School District (MUSD) Police Department is one of several law enforcement agencies across the country that will receive a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant.
The highly competitive grant is to be used to hire recent military veterans, according to the DOJ.
This is the first time the MUSD Police Department receives a grant from COPS, though it applied for it last year, according to Chief of Police Linh Dinh.
“It’s a tough grant to get and the fact that we got it, being a smaller agency, is a positive thing,” Dinh said, “Any infusion to hire more officers is a win for everybody.”
The $125,000 COPS grant will go toward covering the salary and benefits for the officer to be hired for the next three years. Dinh said the grant came at an opportune time because the department’s “Safe Schools Healthy Students” hiring grant expires on June 30.
There’s a lot of competition for the COPS grant, said Dinh, explaining why they lost out last year. He attributes his department’s better luck this year to revisions in the grant application that now requires the recipient agency to match the grant 50-50, making it more accessible to more agencies.
COPS awarded $111 million in total nationwide in an effort to support veterans who served in a branch of the military for at least 180 days since Sept. 11, 2001.
“This new opportunity for veterans is a commitment to support those who are coming home from their tour of duty,” said Bernard Melekian, COPS Office Director in a press release. “We sincerely hope this effort encourages our veterans to continue to protect and serve the United States through new law enforcement careers.”
The city of Los Angeles alone was awarded a $6.4 million grant for the hiring of 25 recent veterans followed by Chula Vista in San Diego County with $750,000; Hemet in Riverside County will receive $630,000, and South El Monte’s grant is for $125,000.
Dinh said the grants are a great help for law enforcement agencies nationwide, especially in California where “unfilled positions are going unfilled.”
Grantees were selected based on fiscal need and local crime rates, as well as each agency’s strategy for dealing with increased homicide rates and gun violence.