Wilmington will not accept $1.8 million in federal grant money to hire 15 police officers.
Former Mayor Dennis Williams applied for the federal COPS grant before he was defeated by current Mayor Mike Purzycki. Williams deferred a decision on accepting the money to the new administration.
After reviewing the grant with the help of new Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy, Purzycki decided the cost was too high. In order to accept the money, Wilmington would have been required to spend an extra $3.5 million over the next four years.
“These federal grants are not free money,” Purzycki said. “In theory, when cities accept these types of grants and add more police officers, they should do so with the understanding that the number of officers will be reduced by an equal amount through attrition when the grant expires.”
But Purzycki said that hasn’t happened in Wilmington in recent years. He said the number of both police officers and fire fighters has increased over the past decade through federal grant funding. When previous mayors have tried to cut back some of those additional positions to save money, it is met with opposition.
“We are breaking with that irresponsible fiscal practice as of today by not accepting this latest grant,” Purzycki said.
Purzycki said Chief Tracy believes the police department’s current staffing level of 314 is “sufficient” to operate as it needs to. He also pointed to a 2015 state crime commission report that found Wilmington Police had sufficient money and operational resources to “adequately” fight crime in the city.