Grant keeps deputies at full strength

By:  Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA -- A federal grant announced Friday will allow the Yakima County Sheriff's Office to retain three deputies next year, Sheriff Ken Irwin said.

The Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services program issued the awards, which were announced in a joint news release by Washington's Democratic senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

The $730,000 will be used to pay most of the salary for three deputies over three years, Irwin said.

"This couldn't come at a better time," Irwin said.

Without the money, Irwin had projected layoffs in the 2011 budget.

The grant will hold the sheriff's office at 60 commissioned deputies and administrators, including the sheriff.

The agency has lost funding for four additional positions in the last two years, Irwin said.

The first round of federal COPS funding was issued last year as part of the stimulus effort. Numerous Washington agencies -- including Yakima County and other rural sheriff's offices -- had complained that they didn't receive funding even though they were suffering financial shortfalls.

Irwin said he understood that Yakima County was the only Washington sheriff's office to receive funding in this round.

Irwin said he will likely meet with county commissioners next week to discuss securing money to cover the remaining salary portion for the three deputies, as well as patrol vehicles and other equipment.

The grant requires that the county independently fund the positions for a fourth year, so that money also needs to be dedicated, Irwin said.

The grant pays the deputies at the agency's entry-level rate. The county must make up the rest.

Irwin said he was waiting to receive formal confirmation of the grant award and still needed to calculate the county's portion.

Murray and Cantwell said they were glad the money was available for Yakima County.

"To fight crime, violence and drugs in our communities, we need to stand by our local law enforcement officers and ensure they have the resources they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively," Cantwell said in a statement.