Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg applauded efforts by Sen. Maria Cantwell to preserve federal money that's critical to fighting the war on gangs and drugs.
Cantwell led a bipartisan letter signed by 39 senators last week encouraging money continue to be earmarked for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program.
In the Tri-Cities, Byrne JAG dollars help fund the Tri-City Metro Drug Task Force. The undercover drug unit received $277,000 in grant funds for the fiscal 2010-11 budget and $171,000 for the 2011-12 budget, Hohenberg said.
Hohenberg said the federal funds definitely help keep the task force running, and although it did lose $100,000 this year, the concern is that the entire pot of money might go away.
"Metro really does play a really important role in keeping the Tri-Cities safe as a whole," Hohenberg said. "It really is about safety -- not only for our officers but also for citizens."
Hohenberg said there was a push in the state to let senators know the need for additional funding, but Cantwell was "already on the forefront of advocating for us."
Bryne JAG grants are allocated to cities or counties based on a formula of population and violent crime statistics.
The state receives 60 percent of the funding, which then is provided to communities for programs such as Metro. The remaining 40 percent is provided directly to communities through a statewide competitive grant process.
"It's allowed cities and counties across the state ... to be able to upgrade or purchase items that they wouldn't normally be able to," Hohenberg said.
Kennewick and Richland police departments and the Benton County Sheriff's Office are eligible to apply for $42,746 in grant funds this year that go directly to the agency.
Of that total, Kennewick would get $25,647, which Hohenberg said they want to use to upgrade security for the police department and City Hall, including requiring key-card access at city hall.
Richland is eligible for $10,866. Richland police Capt. Jeff Taylor said they're hoping to use their portion of grant funds to buy additional Taser guns for officers. Officers have to check Tasers in and out at each shift change because there aren't enough to be individually assigned to each officer, he said.
Benton County sheriff's officials are hoping to use the $6,413 to buy digital tape recorders to help deputies with telephonic search warrants and to tape witness or suspect statements in the field, and replace older digital cameras that are used for crime and accident scene photos.