Stimulus watch: Philly gets $10.9 million for police officers

Philly can hire or retain 50 police officers

Philadelphia's award is part of the $1 billion earmarked for the Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) Program within the $787 billion stimulus package. City officials said the money should help boost numbers on the police force, which hovers at about 6,600 officers.

"We're slightly under strength now because of attrition," said Ramsey. "What this grant does, it allows us to replace some."

But if the city's budget plans aren't approved in Harrisburg, the COPS dollars will likely just stem the expected tide of layoffs.

Nutter has said that 600 to 800 police officers could be laid off if the city doesn't get state approval for a temporary hike in the sales tax and some cost-saving changes to pension payments.

"If we found ourselves in a circumstance with regard to the potential for layoffs, we'd look at these dollars as a funding source to preserve jobs in the first place," Nutter said.

Nutter said the city will continue to review the budget situation before starting a new class at the Police Academy.

COPS will provide full funding for 50 officers for three years. The city is required to pick up the expenses for the fourth year. This is a change from previous COPS grants, which required matching funds from cities.

Started by President Clinton, COPS helped put 100,000 more police officers on America's streets in the 1990s. But federal funding for COPS was drastically cut back under President Bush.

Yesterday's announcement highlighted the unusual position the city is in - talking about major budget cuts one day, while announcing massive stimulus grants another. And although the city has been awarded millions of stimulus dollars, most of the money cannot be used to deal with the gaping hole in the city's general fund.