LAWRENCE — The city has received a $920,000 grant from the state to help rebuild a police department still battered by the 40 layoffs it suffered in budget cuts three years ago, Mayor William Lantigua said yesterday.
Acting Police Chief James Fitzpatrick said he may hire as many as five patrol officers using the grant. He said the new hires will “alter the posture of the Lawrence Police Department from reactive to proactive,” possibly by directing more patrols to high-crime areas and by beefing up community policing.
“Any chances we have to increase public safety officers in the city is a big deal,” Lantigua said. “I’d like to add 100 more, but we have to do with what we have.”
City Councilor Daniel Rivera, who is challenging Lantigua in Tuesday’s election, said Lantigua is taking credit for the work to secure the grant done by state Reps. Frank Moran and Marcos Devers and Sen. Barry Finegold.
Rivera said the city already is too reliant on state money to pay for local services.
“As we saw in 2007 and 2009, the city of Lawrence suffers when state and federal resources dry up,” Rivera said about earlier cuts in state aid that the city suffered. “We need to increase the number of police officers that are paid with city tax dollars. The bottom line is that in my administration, we will put more funding for police officers in our core budget. Lawrence will not be a ward of the state when it comes to the most important service we provide.”
Along with the 40 cops, Lantigua laid off about two dozen firefighters on July 1, 2010, under his first budget. The federal government provided a $6 million grant to rehire the firefighters, and Lantigua was able to retain all of them using city money when the grant ran out earlier this year.
Lantigua and Fitzpatrick did not return phone calls yesterday seeking to learn whether there is a plan for retaining the new police hires when the state grant runs out.