Middletown is not eligible for federal grants to pay school police

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MIDDLETOWN, NJ — It has now been revealed that the Middletown School District did not qualify for federal funds that would have offset the cost of having an armed police officer at each school.

“Put simply, Middletown did not meet the grant criteria,” Middletown School Board President Frank Capone said Tuesday.

Federal grants were distributed in October and preference was given to school districts in low-income areas, according to the Justice Department. Perth Amboy received $1.25 million to hire 10 new police officers at its school and New Brunswick will receive $250,000 to hire two school police officers.

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Funding is part of the DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing, or COPS hiring program.

Capone said the Middletown School Board “reviewed” the COPS grant application, but was told his application would not be accepted.

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“We looked into it and were told we weren’t eligible,” he said. “Preference was given to candidates from areas of persistent poverty, candidates from rural areas, etc. We have schools with children and staff in each building, just like New Brunswick and Perth Amboy. You don’t should ever stipulate the level of income for the safety of students and teachers.”

According to the Department of Justice, there was a huge demand for federal funds to pay armed officers in schools: in 2022, the COPS office received 711 requests; only 25 percent received funding.

According this Department of Justice fact sheetApplications meeting one of the following criteria were considered:

  • Candidates in an area of ​​persistent poverty
  • Candidates who are committed to recruiting officers from the community in which they will serve and/or who are committed to recruiting officers who are willing to relocate to areas with high crime or fragmented police-community relations
  • Agencies requiring evidence-based cultural awareness training for officers
  • Candidates who have suffered an unforeseen catastrophic event
  • Applicants who commit to hiring at least one military veteran
  • Candidates from rural areas

Preference was also given to US cities that have “high rates of gun violence” and “other areas of violent crime.”

“Once again the hard-working taxpayers of Middletown have been forgotten,” Capone said. “It’s extremely expensive (to pay the officers). You can’t put a monetary value on anyone’s life, and Middletown shouldn’t have to meet those criteria to ensure safety is there for students and adults in our schools.

In Middletown, the first group of 11 officers were sworn in August, and the district aims to hire 25 officers in total. At the rate of $35 per hour, paying officers is expected to cost the Middletown School District $1.4 million in year one (2022-23) and $1.3 million in year two (2023-24) .

This cost is borne entirely by the Middletown School District and Middletown property taxpayers.

As part of this Department of Justice funding, the Middletown School District received $491,000 in federal funds which will be used to install special key card only access doors throughout the school system.

But Capone is still very angry. Middletown could not recover the cost of the officers.

“It would have been a much more impactful grant if we could use that money for our Class 3 law enforcement officers,” Capone said. “What’s amazing is that other Abbott districts like Perth Amboy and New Brunswick – which already receive the most state funding – have received grants to fund officers, while Suburban school districts like Middletown continue to be forced to fund their own.”

“Once again the hard-working taxpayers of Middletown have been forgotten,” he said.

As announced by the US Department of Justice, these are all cities in New Jersey that received federal money under the 2022 COPS hiring program. They are called CHP awards: https://cops.usdoj.gov/chp-awa…

  • City of Atlantic City $1.875 million to hire 15 officers
  • Cinnaminson Township $375,000 to hire 3 officers
  • Harrison $625,000 to hire 5 officers
  • Jersey City $1.875 million to hire 15 officers
  • New Brunswick $250,000 to hire 2 officers
  • Newark $1.875 million to hire 15 officers
  • Perth Amboy $1.25m to hire 10 officers
  • Pleasantville $2 million to hire 6 agents
  • Union City $3.75 million to hire 30 officers

In addition, two other technical details explain why Middletown did not qualify for this round of funding:

COPS grant funding could only be used for career police officers. Middletown specifically hired retired class 3 officers because they are cheaper than regular police. Class 3 officers in Middletown are paid $35 an hour, far less than the $50 hourly rate for off-duty police officers.

Additionally, Middletown was ineligible for COPS funding because the money cannot be used retroactively, said a spokeswoman for Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ6), who represents Central Jersey (y including North Middletown).

The grants were awarded in October and Middletown hired the officers in August.

“Fundamentally, the funding cannot be used for salaries/benefits of current employees,” said Pallone spokeswoman Mary Werden. “Recipients have never been allowed to use COPS grants to cover expenses retroactively. These are not our rules, but the rules set out in the legislation authorizing these grant programs.”

“If Middletown needs funding outside of what this specific grant allows, we encourage them to apply for grants that meet their needs,” the Pallone spokeswoman added. “We are happy to work with them on specific grant applications to ensure they apply for these grants in the future.”

Learn more about school safety: Special card-access security doors are coming to schools in Middletown (October 19)


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