Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest will receive $89,000 each under grant funding released Monday as part of the Justice Assistance Grant program. The funding was announced at a press conference in the Forest Park village hall hosted by Mayor Anthony Calderone and County Board President Todd Stroger, and attended by police brass from more than 20 police departments.
Calderone welcomed Stroger and the assembled police chiefs, and introduced Stroger’s remarks on the funding. He spoke for those chiefs when he noted the stimulus money was “very, very much welcome by all of our law enforcement community.”
Speaking for Forest Park, he opined that the funding, also known as BADGE grants (Balanced Approach to Drug and Gang Elimination) “certainly has made a very positive impact on some of (our) programming, particularly with youth in our community.”
“This is yet another little shot in the arm to assist all of the communities … not only to assist youth, but, today, as we all know, the economic times, as we all know, are unprecedented. Certainly this money is going to go to good use,” Calderone said.
On the day before he faced a primary in his uphill campaign for re-election, Stroger appeared to relish being in the position to deliver good news to so many municipalities. He was even able to surprise his audience a bit. Each municipality had been informed by mail late last week they were receiving $69,000 in funding. Stroger let them know the pot had been “sweetened” by an additional $20,000 in available federal stimulus money.
The amount represents a 500 percent increase over 2009 funding.
Dan Coughlin, who administers the funds as executive director of the Cook County Judicial Advisory Council, touted the essential role police play.
“They are the people who literally have the safety of hundreds of thousands of people in their hands,” Coughlin said. The grants are an attempt, he said, to help those departments better ensure “safe, secure neighborhoods” and address such key challenges as dealing with at-risk youth and ex-offenders out on parole.
Coughlin also praised the array of services for which different departments have opted to use previous grant funds.
“There’s been a significant peak in creativity by law enforcement executives to not only purchase equipment and supplies, but also a lot of programs that reach out to young children, young kids, who are in harm’s way or at high risk of being sucked in by gang type violence,” Coughlin said.
Coughlin noted that while federal dollars always have “certain limitations” with their use, local police officials are familiar with those attached strings, and have clear ideas of how they will spend the money.
“Compared to other federal grants, these are very flexible grants,” said Coughlin. “There’s a lot of leeway in how they’re going to spend those funds.”