Currently the department has eight open positions for officers, according to Police Chief Layton McGrady, four of which will be funded by a federal Community Oriented Policing Services (C.O.P.S.) grant from the U.S. Justice Department. The Police Department in July won a $562,000 federal COPS Hiring Recovery Program grant to fund the positions.
McGrady said at least six more officers are expected to retire or leave in the next year, possibly more.
The remaining 10 job candidates were filtered from a pool of 120 who applied to take the required civil service test in November. McGrady said he should know by the end of today which candidates will be given job offers.
The new officers will be sworn in March 23, and will begin patrol training until the next police academy session begins.
As the new officers settle in to the department, McGrady hopes to free up higher-ranking officers to form a Street Crimes Team that will work closely with the Calhoun-Cleburne County Drug and Violent Crime Task Force. The team will focus on problems such as drug houses to rein in crime in Anniston.
“Drugs are the core problem,” he said. “Burglaries and robberies are committed because they want money to get drugs. Almost every crime, except sex crimes, can be traced back to drugs.”
He hopes to turn some positions currently filled by veteran officers, such as the overseers of animal control and the property/evidence room, into civilian positions. Those officers could move up to the Street Crimes Team after new officers fill lower positions.
The group will perform surveillance of known drug houses and neighborhoods where violent crimes, such as drive-by shootings, are frequent.
McGrady said the last time the department had a street crime team was in the late 1990s. It had six to eight officers then, he said.
The team’s approach will be determined by whether the community receives a Weed and Seed grant from the U.S. Justice Department. The effort to implement the Weed and Seed program was spearheaded last year by Charity Richey-Bentley, president of the Northeast Alabama Center for Community Initiatives, along with a steering committee made up of community leaders.
The application for the $1 million grant was finalized in December. The program aims to weed out crime and seed community development.
If the grant is awarded, the street crimes team will have to focus on one outlined area or neighborhood at a time. The grant application determined which neighborhoods needed community policing the most.
McGrady said the street crimes team could possibly be formed in the next three to six months.
Contact Staff Writer Rebecca Walker at 256-235-3562.