standing Richmond Police Department cruiser

RICHMOND — The Department of Justice has issued more than $750,000 in grant funding to Rhode Island law enforcement agencies including the Richmond Police Department to assist with the hiring and retention of officers to focus on community policing.

Richmond is one of five agencies that was selected during a competitive process, the department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, said in a news release. The COPS Hiring Program provided more than $139 million across all 50 U.S. states in the latest grant funding, with direct funding going to 183 agencies.

In the latest round, Richmond will receive $125,000 to be used specifically “to hire new or rehire additional career law enforcement officers, thereby increasing their community policing capacity and crime prevention efforts,” according to a news release.

Although the town’s population has grown over both the past decade and considerably over the past two years, the Richmond Police Department has remained the smallest law enforcement agency in Washington County with just 14 sworn officers, including Police Chief Elwood M. Johnson Jr. In addition, the agency has maintained jurisdiction over the Chariho campus, which houses both the middle and high schools and is home to approximately 3,000 students and staff.  

“In the Chariho area, one of the best community policing models is the School Resource Officer program, where thousands of our students are congregated daily during the school year,” Johnson said. “We have been fortunate to have quality police officers working in that capacity, such as SRO Brock Taylor, our current SRO, who has fostered trust and positive relationships with the youth in our community and the school staff, which helps work towards reducing juvenile delinquency through proactive means, and assisting youth with conflict resolution. Continually enhancing the safety of our schools is a top priority for our department, and our neighboring mutual aid law enforcement partners.”

Johnson said the grant money, which the chief applied for in June, would be used to provide the department with an additional full-time sworn officer. The federal funding, if approved by the Richmond Town Council, would provide 75% of pay, training and benefit costs for the new position over three years. The town would be required to finance the remaining 25% of the cost, Johnson said, as well as being financially obligated to retain the position for at least one additional year at the end of the three-year grant period.  

The Richmond Town Council would still be required to formally accept the grant before the funding can be obtained. Johnson said he intends to bring the grant before the council at an upcoming meeting. 

“Our local law enforcement partners play an integral role in the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction strategy,” Acting U.S. Attorney Richard Myrus said. “The COPS hiring program and today’s grants reflect our commitment to local law enforcement, community-based policing, and to the broader goal of keeping the people of Rhode Island safe by reducing violent crime.”

Other Rhode Island communities that received grants in the latest round include North Providence, Scituate, Smithfield and Tiverton.

The COPS Hiring Program is a competitive award program intended to reduce crime and advance public safety through community policing. CHP provides funds directly to law enforcement agencies to hire new or rehire additional career law enforcement officers, thereby increasing their community policing capacity and crime prevention efforts.

Of the 183 agencies grants awarded, approximately half will use the funding to focus on building legitimacy and trust between law enforcement and communities; 41 agencies will seek to address high rates of gun violence; 21 will focus on other areas of violence; and 19 will focus the resources on combating hate and domestic extremism or supporting police-based response to persons in crisis.

Since its creation in 1994, COPS has invested more than $14 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of more than 135,000 officers.

To learn more about the COPS Hiring Program, visit https://cops.usdoj.gov/.

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