Some United States war veterans will get to become Chicago Heights police officers soon, thanks to a federal grant aimed at increasing the number of community police across the country.
The 2012 Community Oriented Policing Services Grant, offered by the U.S. Department of Justice, is awarding the City of Chicago Heights $500,000 to expand its community policing. But the grant has an important stipulation: It must be used to hire veterans that served in the military during and after 2001.
The City will match the grant amount with another $408,000 to put toward hiring four additional veterans, according to Mayor David Gonzalez. Both amounts must be spent over the next three years.
Gonzalez commended President Barack Obama's administration for changing the COPS grant to require the hiring of veterans.
"(Obama) felt, and I totally agree with him, we need to give veterans an opportunity to become law enforcement officials throughout the country, including Chicago Heights," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez also credited retired police chief Michael Camilli for helping secure the grant for the City in June.
"I want to thank Chief Camilli," Gonzalez said. "It was one of the last grants he helped us get."
A "nice batch" of veterans have already applied for jobs with the . Some are already taking the necessary tests, according to Gonzalez.
Gonzalez used the police department's bike patrol, which recently helped maintain security at the , as an example of what community policing entails.
"You see the bike patrol out there, it's very effective," Gonzalez said. "It's what community policing is all about."
The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced awarding $111 million in COPS Hiring Grants, all with the intent of increasing community policing and hiring veterans.