Grants, small and large, offset police expenses

Holly Fox, a Center for Mental Health therapist, stands with a police patrol unit in 2018, when the Montrose Police Department launched a mental health co-responder program in which therapists respond to calls with officers, as needed. In 2019, the MPD received more than $42,000 from the Department of Local Affairs to obtain a specially equipped vehicle for the co-responder program, as well as for peer-response training for officers. This grant was among more than a dozen the MPD received last year.

Public safety in Montrose got a significant boost last year, in the form of multiple grants that reduce pressure on local taxpayers’ wallets.

The Montrose Police Department received nearly $350,000 in 2019, from about 15 grantors and/or funds; the amount is part of an overall $1.24 million in grant funding that went to the City of Montrose, in support of more than $2.3 million in municipal and community projects.

“They’re extremely important to the police department and the city as a whole. They add to our ability to expand our programs, oftentimes,” Montrose Police Chief Blaine Hall said Thursday.

Grants the MPD received last year included, on the lower end, about $1,500 for training ammunition, and the $1,675 received from the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force

“Every little bit helps. Policing is often changing and is very technology driven these days. These grants really help us stay ahead of the curve,” Hall said.

The MPD received more sizable grants — $28,000 and $68,640 — through the Colorado Department of Public Safety’s administration of Victim Assistance and Law Enforcement and Victims of Crime Act program funds. These pay for the statutorily mandated position of victim advocate, as well as for vehicle expenses for mobile advocacy.

“We have to have that position, and we should,” Hall said.

The department’s victim advocate assists other agencies in the 7th Judicial District. The MPD’s computer crimes investigation division is available to process electronic forensic evidence for other agencies as needed.

Often, the grants received come with the expectation that the department will help out smaller agencies and in general, agency-assist is a common practice of law enforcement, Hall said.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Montrose is a hub in the 7th Judicial District and in my opinion, a leader in public safety. We have a responsibility to help out our partners. Crime doesn’t respect political boundaries.”

The MPD also can call upon larger agencies for extraordinary events, such as bomb threats. The agency-assists are vital, Hall said.

“Law enforcement doesn’t get done unless the relationships are present between agencies. When agencies call, we provide help. It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “We look at it as kind of a large family. We have to help each other.

From the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the police department received nearly $151,000 for gray- and black-market marijuana enforcement activity.

The money was used to buy equipment specific to searching out black market pot — marijuana being trafficked into Montrose — and “gray market” marijuana, the unlicensed cultivation or distribution of the drug locally. A person may legally grow pot for his or her own use in Colorado, however, selling such marijuana is an illegal, “gray market” activity, Hall said.

Grants from state or federal funding mean other taxpayers help those in Montrose offset policing costs.

They are not guaranteed, however, and they alone are not sufficient to sustain the department, which receives general fund money and will also start receiving revenue from a recent sales tax increase.

“In my opinion, the city of Montrose as a whole has been very successful in acquiring and coordinating grant funding. I know it’s been a great resource for the Montrose Police Department,” Hall said.

“While we really appreciate and enjoy grant funding, we don’t receive enough to support the entire operation of public safety in the city of Montrose. When we’re fortunate enough to receive a grant, it’s awesome and we’re able to supply some of our operations as a result, but it can’t be looked at as a primary source of funding. Because, one day, we might not get it.”

Hall welcomes anyone with questions about MPD operations to call him at 970-252-5219.

Police grant details

• Colorado Department of Public Safety: $7,353 to help the department join the Colorado Information Sharing Consortium Network, which consists of 60 law enforcement agencies in the state, and which share data.

• CDPS Criminal Justice Division: $28,000 through the Victim Assistance and Law Enforcement Program and $68,640 through the Victims of Crime Act. The money combined pays for victim advocates and a two-year vehicle lease for mobile advocacy.

• DOLA: $42,639 was for a specially equipped vehicle for the MPD’s mental health co-responder, and to provide peer support training for police officers;

Two grants from DOLA totaling $150,902, for gray market and black market marijuana enforcement expenses related to investigation and prosecution of unlicensed marijuana cultivation or distribution operations.

• Colorado Department of Human Services: $4,500 to purchase 60 units of the opioid-reversal drug NARCAN.

• U.S. Department of Justice: $3,914 to help the department buy new bullet-resistant vests for officers; these were purchased last year.

• Colorado Department of Transportation: $9,000 to pay overtime for seat belt enforcement campaigns; $14,000 to pay overtime for high-visibility DUI enforcement.

• West Central Peace Officer Standards and Training Region: $1,481 to purchase training ammunition.

• Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training: About $7,400 to buy training equipment.

• Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force: $1,675 to send a detective to a national conference to learn the latest techniques for protecting children from internet crimes.

• Walmart: $2,500 to assist with the costs of the emotional support facility dog the department is bringing on board. The money is for traveling expenses for the victim advocate’s training trip to California and transport expenses from there for the dog. The facility dog will benefit crime victims and others experiencing anxiety.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

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