Grant may bring new police officer to Williston

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

The Williston Police Department is among six agencies to receive funding for new police hires.

Williston will receive $125,000 to put toward a new officer over a three-year period.

“I was actually ecstatic,” Police Chief Todd Shepard said of the news. “We know that we need to grow a little bit to keep up with the activity, so anything we can do to offset the costs to the taxpayer (helps).”

Before the department can begin looking for a new officer, voters must approve an addition to the police budget, completing the salary for an officer. The grants provide 75 percent of the approved salary and benefits for newly hired entry-level officer positions over a three year period. If the addition to the budget is approved, a new officer could begin in July.

Shepard said an additional officer would help with the department’s efforts to reach out to the community, such as through neighborhood meetings, as well as with traffic safety efforts in town.

“We all know we have significant traffic issues in Williston, which drives up our accident rates,” he said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy announced on Sept. 27 that Vermont would receive $744,558 in grants for hiring or rehiring officers, administered by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services through the federal agency’s COPS Hiring Program.

“COPS hiring grants remain a crucial source of support for our state and local law enforcement agencies, so they can continue their important and lifesaving work,” Leahy said in a press release. “These funds will help Vermont police officers to quickly fill vacancies and hire new officers.”

To date, more than 71 state and local law enforcement agencies in Vermont have received $48 million in COPS grants.