MADELEINE BRAND, host:
How many police officers can a billion dollars buy? About 4,700, according to the Department of Justice. This week that money, part of the stimulus package, was divvied up between police departments across the country. Some big cities, New York, for example, got zero - others were more fortunate. Los Angeles will be able to hire 50 new officers, 20 in Little Rock, seven in Topeka and in Sansom Park, Texas, one new officer. Joining me now is Sansom Park Police Chief Tony White. Chief White, welcome to the program.
Mr. TONY WHITE (Chief, Sansom Park Police Department): Thank you.
BRAND: I understand Sansom Park is near Fort Worth, has a population of around 5,000 people. How big is your police force now?
Mr. WHITE: We have 12 sworn officers at this point.
BRAND: Twelve, so you'll be able to have 13.
Mr. WHITE: That's correct.
BRAND: How much money did you get?
Mr. WHITE: Believe it was 134,000 and some change.
BRAND: And how long will that last?
Mr. WHITE: It's a three-year grant to cover salaries and benefits to that officer.
BRAND: I see. And were you surprised that you got this money, that you got enough to hire one more police officer?
Mr. WHITE: Well, we weren't sure. Yeah, I was a little bit shocked because I know it was a billion dollar package and the applications totaled, like, 8.3 billion. We knew there was going to be a lot of people getting cut short. So, we were kind of crossing our fingers, but we were ecstatic to find out that we actually did receive one out of the three that we asked for.
BRAND: What do you think convinced them to give you the money?
Mr. WHITE: I believe that in the narrative portion, you know, we spelled it out. We're a small town with big city crime. And we get a spillover effect from Fort Worth. You know, it's not a little, sleepy town out in the country. In the Texas area there's a huge influx of Hispanics. And the demographics of our little town have changed dramatically over the past few years. You know, we just said, hey man, we need - if we're going to continue to do community policing effectively, we got to have some more Hispanic(ph) speaking officers.
BRAND: So you definitely need another officer who speaks Spanish.
Mr. WHITE: Oh, absolutely. If we're going to have crime reported and we're going to be able to work on community police, then we got to have someone out there that can speak the language.
BRAND: And when you say community policing, what does that mean?
Mr. WHITE: You know, we try to partner with the community, work with them hand in hand. When you have possibly only two officers on the street at a time, you know, you've got four eyes looking. And if we're not working in partnership with those people out there, we'll have a hard time solving crime.
BRAND: So, if you could have as many police officers as you wanted, if you could get the money for that, how many do you think you'd need to really be effective in fighting crime?
Mr. WHITE: Now you're giving me the wish list. You know, three would've been nice. I mean, I think we do a pretty effective job with what we have. If you interview every chief in the nation, they're all going to tell you that they don't have enough. I mean, it'd be nice. I have close to 20, but that's not feasible.
BRAND: Chief White, thank you very much.
Mr. WHITE: Thank you.
BRAND: That's Sansom Park Police Chief Tony White. Federal stimulus money means he'll be able to hire one more police officer for Sansom Park, Texas.
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