Tukwila to use federal grant to hire two police officers as liaisons to immigrant community

The City of Tukwila has received a $250,000 federal grant that will help pay for two new police officers who will serve as liaisons to the city's immigrant and refugee communities.

The City of Tukwila has received a $250,000 federal grant that will help pay for two new police officers who will serve as liaisons to the city’s immigrant and refugee communities.

The grant is coming from the U.S. Department of Justice’s COPS Hiring Program, which assists local communities in hiring or rehiring community policing officers.

“These additional officers will serve as bridge builders, gaining trust and developing positive relationships between Tukwila’s diverse communities and law enforcement,” said Police Chief Mike Villa in a city press release.

He’s pleased, he said, “the Department of Justice continues to recognize the good work of the Tukwila Police Department and our commitment to engaging with every member of our community.”

The grant will pay a portion of the new officers’ salaries and benefits for three years, with the rest coming from the city’s budget, according to Rachel Bianchi, the city’s spokeswoman.

Also, as a requirement of the grant, the city commits to keeping the two officers on staff for at least one additional year, she said.

The city hasn’t yet budgeted its share of the officers’ salaries and benefits, a minimum of 25 percent of the total; but the council did approve the Police Department moving forward with the grant application, she said.

Tukwila’s Police Department also has received a $17,682 federal grant to purchase iPhones and additional computer technology. The money is part of $1 million in federal grants awarded to police agencies in Western Washington by the Department of Justice.

This is the second COPS grant received by the City of Tukwila. In 2009, the city received a grant for just under $1 million to hire three officers for the department’s community-policing team.

After the 2009 grant funding expired, Tukwila adjusted its budget to keep the additional officers who patrol the city’s neighborhoods and business district, often on bicycle and foot, according to Bianchi.

The city’s demographics – a daytime population of 150,000 and 19,000 at night and more than 80 languages spoken in the city’s schools – present “unique benefits and challenges,” Bianchi said, in working with diverse communities.

Some of Tukwila’s communities may bring different cultural norms experiences regarding law enforcement and the law, she said.

“Tukwila’s COPS grant will help everyone – law enforcement and residents – better understand each other and expectations, while facilitating increased trust all around,” she said.

According to a federal news release, priority consideration was given this year to police agencies applying for grants that build community trust or focus on school resource officers.

Of the $107 million in grants awarded nationwide, $1.25 million went to police agencies in Western Washington that will create or protect 10 law-enforcement positions.

“These awards will not only keep more officers on the beat – they will address specific issue areas like violent crime, school safety, homeland security and community trust,” said U.S. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch in a news release. “They will help our law enforcement agencies become more efficient and more responsive to the needs of their jurisdictions.”

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