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Woodland gains federal grant

WOODLAND — As funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act begin to trickle down, one Roanoke-Chowan community stands to benefit.

The Woodland Police Department has been awarded $134,100 from the federal stimulus package, which will provide funding for one new full time police officer position for three years.

According to a Tuesday press release from Vice President Joe Biden’s office, WPD is one of 1,046 departments in the country to be awarded a grant, which will provide 100 percent of the approved salary and benefits for the officer. The grant requires the town to fund the position for at least another year after the first initial three supported wholly by the funds.

The funding will be administered by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) through the federal agency’s COPS Hiring Recovery Program.

This grant is the proverbial music to WPD Chief Don Ryan’s ears. Ryan has been the town’s only full time officer for 18 years and the community saw a spike in crime late last year and early this year. The seasoned law enforcement veteran said he’s “burned out.”

During that increased period in crime, Ryan said he reached out to the Northampton County Board of Commissioners and the Sheriff’s Department, who responded with specialized patrols. This has helped Ryan in controlling the crime, but ultimately the grant will help to fill a huge need in his department and in the community.

Ryan is slated to retire in January 2010 and the additional full time officer will provide additional support for him and his soon-to-be named replacement.

“We’re elated,” he said. “I’ve been here 18 years and we’ve gotten grants (that fund) 75, 50 percent (of a full time position), but we just didn’t have the funding.”

Ryan said once he heard about the funds for law enforcement a few months ago, he went onto the Internet to do his own research. He officially submitted the application in March.

Ryan said the town has 90 days to accept the grant. From there an advertisement will be placed and a qualified candidate will be selected to fill the position. Ryan is confident the town will accept the grant and in the end the additional officer position will be a good thing for the town’s citizens.

“We want to make (this person) a community officer, we want them to get to know everyone and help curb the problems we have,” said Ryan.

As for his own replacement, Ryan said the search is well on its way and interviews with four candidates have been lined up. Two of those are local people and two are from outside the area, Ryan said.