FARMINGTON — Although city budget cuts halted growth of the Farmington Police Department, five new officers will be hired thanks to a federal grant awarded Tuesday.

The Department of Justice funds paid through the federal stimulus program are established to create new law enforcement positions increasing community safety while also bolstering a weakened economy with new jobs.

The grant funds awarded to Farmington will pay the salary and benefits of five new officers over a three-year period and expenses that are anticipated to cost more than $1 million. The costs otherwise would have prevented the city from hiring new officers during weakened economic conditions.

By accepting the funds, City Council agrees to retain the new officers for at least one year after the grant expires, which annually would cost the city more than $430,000.

"We have a need today for those officers to be on the street addressing issues and crime. We certainly thought, with the growth of the city in general, looking at four years from now, that we could justify five officers," Assistant City Manager Bob Campbell said. "It certainly was a conservative, we think prudent, thing to do to take advantage of the federal money."

The city of Farmington also is expected to pay all equipment costs for the new officers, estimated at about $50,000 per position. But those cost likely will be paid through an earlier-awarded federal grant to invest in new police equipment, Campbell said.


Although every law enforcement agency in San Juan County expressed interest in applying for the funds to hire new officers, only Farmington was awarded the grant.

Farmington police Chief Jim Runnels said the new officers will be assigned to new community policing efforts, rather than transferring current officers away from the patrol division to work the new assignments.

"When you are able to put five people on the street, it can make a big difference depending on where you put them," Runnels said.

Statewide, 28 new officers were awarded to New Mexico law enforcement agencies.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján commended the program for retaining law enforcement resources in the state.

"At a time when many law enforcement agencies are struggling with budget cuts, these grants will provide assistance to hire and rehire police officers," Luján said in a prepared statement. "These funds mean keeping police officers on the streets to help keep communities throughout New Mexico safe, while providing an economic boost to our state."

James Monteleone: