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County not expected to get COPS grant

Three police departments in Ohio have been given a federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring and retention grant this year, but Lawrence County is not one of them.

Sheriff Jeff Lawless told the Lawrence County Commission Thursday that while he was not denied a grant, he has not yet been approved.

Still, he is doubtful he will ever be approved considering the number of agencies vying for those same dollars.

“We asked for funding to supplement the salary of four officers in hopes of hiring two and retaining two,” Lawless said. “It was similar to the COPS grant a few years ago that allowed us to hire officers.”

Lawless asked the commission Thursday to work with him in making ends meet in his department.

He said his budget took a hit earlier this year when an arbitrator awarded employees more than $100,000 in a grievance filed two years ago, before he took office.

Commissioners had said the money to reimburse employees would come out of the sheriff’s budget, even though the grievance was against the commission.

This came on top of a 15 percent budget cut.

Commissioners indicated they are sympathetic.

“I think you’ve got one of the hardest jobs,” Commissioner Les Boggs said. “And I think you’re doing a good job, working with what you have.”

Commissioner Jason Stephens pointed out that Lawless has lost five employees within the last 18 months and none of them have been replaced. Sgt Quincy Milem and Detective Richard Holland retired, deputy Dick Brown died, another deputy is no longer at the department and Lawless did not hire someone new to take his place when he was elected sheriff (Jeff Hitchcock, already employed by the sheriff’s office, assumed the chief deputy’s position).

Lawless said he has managed to save some money by hiring two part-timers who split their time between dispatching and office work.

The commission will discuss budget issues when it meets Tuesday for its weekly work session.