Lamar Co. Sheriff's Department eyeing COPS grant to fund new hires

Lamar Co. Sheriff's Department eyeing COPS grant to fund new hires
Photo credit: WDAM

LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The Lamar County Sheriff's Department is looking to expand its force for the first time since 2006, all while saving the taxpayers' money.

The sheriff's department will submit its request to apply for a grant before the Lamar County Board of Supervisors on Thursday, June 22.

The department is looking for approval to submit a grant to the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

"The grant is 75-25 matching grant, so it will hopefully free up some funds," Lamar County Sheriff Danny Rigel said. "In our jobs, like anything else your equipment wears out and you have to replace it, we can't afford to use so-so equipment, we have to have reliable equipment because lives depend on the equipment we use."

The grant, if approved and obtained, will come from the COPS organization, which has invested more than $14 million into helping advance departments since 1994.

The grant will provide 75 percent of newly hired officers' salary for a three-year period, while the county would be responsible for the remaining 25 percent of the salaries, plus matching funds.

"We are asking for three additional sworn officers to add to our force, it would allow us to provide better services, and a lot quicker response times," Rigel said. "With the restructuring recently in the sheriff's office manpower-wise, that would give us an additional person on each patrol shifts."

Rigel first took office in 2004 and has 24 sworn deputies. Since then, the force has almost doubled to 40, with an additional part-time sworn officer.

"Last time we hired additional manpower was 2006; right after taking office we did apply for the COPS grant and we did receive it, along with a few other Katrina grants as well, all were a tremendous help," Rigel said.

In 2000, the Census Bureau showed Lamar County with 39,070 people.

In 2010, the Census Bureau showed 55,658 people in the county.

"We are still the second fastest growing county in the state and we haven't grown manpower-wise," Rigel said. "The supervisors have done their part, plus some in supporting law enforcement in the county, and providing us with everything we need."

Rigel said the extra money would help benefit the department as a whole, not just for new hires.

"It would allow more training for our officers and it would just make it safer for the community and for the sheriff's office," Rigel said. "It's a very extensive application, there's a lot of T's to cross and I's to dot, but I think it's well worth the endeavor and will really improve our department."