SALEM, N.H. — The police department can hire a new officer thanks to a highly sought federal contribution of $125,000.
The justice department on Thursday awarded a total of $139 million for nationwide law enforcement hiring and to advance community policing.
The awards provide direct funding to 183 agencies across the country, allowing a collective 1,066 full-time law enforcement professionals to be hired.
Salem is one of three New Hampshire towns included. The others are Epping, given $125,000 to hire one officer, and Groveton, a municipality bordering northern Vermont that will hire two officers with $250,000.
Salem police Chief Joel Dolan said his department has applied for this particular funding several times in recent years but was denied.
“It’s a very competitive process,” Dolan explained. “New Hampshire has normally only received (up to) four awards, and there are typically 16 to 18 towns that apply.”
This time around, Salem’s application expressed a need for a specialized officer — someone to keep an eye on elder abuse and scams aimed at that group.
“We feel that we do a good job with the general population and in schools with our resource officers, but this is one area that we lack specific attention,” Dolan said.
Senior citizens have historically been the target of scammers looking for money.
The New Hampshire Attorney General last year warned of a “grandparent scam,” in which someone calls or emails posing as a relative, typically a child or grandchild.
Perpetrators have said they were in trouble, even in jail, and needed money to get out. They have also posed as members of law enforcement, claiming to have arrested a loved one.
Victims are either directed to wire funds to a bank account or make an electronic transfer. However, last year, some New Hampshire residents reported arrangements to meet in-person for money or valuable goods.
“With the pandemic and this population being in isolation a lot of the time, we felt right now they are the most vulnerable part of our population,” Dolan said.
New Hampshire legislators have collectively praised the effort to better fund Granite State police departments.
“As Congress works to finalize government funding legislation for the next fiscal year, I’ll keep working to increase investments for the Community Oriented Policing (COPS) Hiring program,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
Dolan is optimistic that this is just the beginning of filling two other vacancies in Salem.
“We’ve changed the way we’ve gone about our recruiting. We’ve put people specifically in charge of it,” he said. “We’ve seen almost immediate success with the steps we’ve taken in the last two months. We’re still not seeing the numbers we did, which we probably never will again. But it’s the most we’ve seen in the last couple years.”
Of the 183 agencies awarded grants this week, about half will use the money to focus on building legitimacy and trust between law enforcement and communities; 41 agencies will seek to address high rates of gun violence; 21 will focus on other areas of violence; and 19 will focus on combating hate and domestic extremism or supporting police-based responses to people in crisis.