May 03, 2018  |  01:52 pm

The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office applied for and was recently awarded a grant from the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).  The last time the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office was awarded a grant of this magnitude was in 1999, nearly twenty years ago.
The grant, which totals $1,009,795.00, will fund 75% percent of nine entry-level deputies’ salaries and benefits for three years. 
The COPS grant was made available by the federal government to rehire officers who had been laid off or to retain officers that would have been laid off as a result of local budget reductions. 
The COPS Hiring Program (CHP) is designed to preserve jobs, increase community policing capacities and support crime prevention efforts.
The program requires applying agencies to provide community-policing actions that aim at improving public safety response to the critical issues of illegal immigration, violent crime and homeland security and increasing community policing and crime prevention efforts. 
Funding obtained through this grant will allow the STPSO to continue deputies’ assignments dedicated to community policing and community relations, which are vital to our community and its citizens as our population continues to grow. STPSO deputies engaged in community relations focus on public awareness and education through outreach programs focused on personal safety and community policing, building community relationships and public trust.
The grant will also allow the STPSO to retain those deputies assigned to our Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) and Highway Enforcement Unit (HEU), which were created by Sheriff Randy Smith to address issues of mental health and drug trafficking in our community.
Deputies on the CIT team are trained to address matters specifically related to mental health and substance abuse. They are skilled in using de-escalation techniques during times of mental health crisis. They also utilize community resources to assist individuals suffering with substance abuse and mental health disorders to recovery.
The Highway Enforcement Unit concentrates on traffic enforcement and intercepting traveling criminals primarily on the interstate systems that travel into and through St. Tammany Parish. This unit was created by Sheriff Smith to focus on drug trafficking, human trafficking and illegal immigrants along the I12/I59/I10 corridor.
The COPS Office received more than 1,100 CHP applications from law enforcement agencies during the open solicitation period in 2017. Of those, 179 were awarded grants.