WACO, TX — The Waco City Council has approved a request from the police department to apply for a federal grant that would allow the city to hire 12 new police officers.
That grant would provide the city $1.6 billion for the new officers. The city would need to match that funding on its own in order to receive the grant.
The council's 5-1 decision comes as the department says officers are spread thin and working extra overtime.
"Whether it be 18 hour shifts and whatnot, it can not only cut down on sleep time but family time and mental health," said Waco PD public information officer, Garen Bynum.
District 2 council member Hector Sabido was one of the five members that supported the grant. He said he's heard from constituents who are concerned about current response times and police presence in the city.
"We're hoping that through this application, we will be granted and we are able to give the community a more visible reinforcement of Waco PD here in our neighborhoods," Sabido said.
Kelly Palmer, District 4 council member, was the only one to oppose the grant. She said the city should use its money in alternative ways to improve public safety, given that the police department already makes up the largest part of the city budget.
"Whether that's looking at preventative issues, like safe housing, having living-wage jobs, having more social workers and clinicians on the police staff," Palmer said. "I just don't think that's always achieved by adding more law enforcement to the table."
The police department, however, sees the council's approval of the grant application as a gesture of support.
"For morale purposes just alone, it's a big deal for us," Bynum said.
There are several costs that go into hiring just one police officer, totaling over $100,000. Salary and benefits add up to $84,805, equipment is $10,546 and uniforms and training are $4,972.
Currently, there is not a specific timeline for the grant application. If the federal grant is not awarded, it is possible that the council will try to add funding for more officers in future budget plans.