The Oak Park and River Forest police departments will each receive $89,000 under grant funding released Monday. The funding, part of the Justice Assistance Grant program, was announced at a press conference in the Forest Park village hall hosted by Mayor Anthony Calderone and Cook County Board President Todd Stroger and attended by police brass from over 20 police departments.

Frank Limon, River Forest’s police chief, and Rick Tanksley, chief in Oak Park, both indicated they would focus on youth programs, particularly those for at-risk youth.

Calderone welcomed Stroger and the assembled police chiefs, and introduced the county board president.

He spoke for the chiefs when he noted the stimulus money was “very, very much welcome by all of our law enforcement community.” Speaking for Forest Park, Calderone said the funding, also known as BADGE grants, or 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,'” he said. “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.”

On the day before he faced a primary in his uphill campaign for reelection, Stroger appeared to relish being in the position to deliver good news to so many county 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 today.

“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 that while federal dollars always have “certain limitations” with their use, local police officials are familiar with those attached strings, and will have considerable leeway in deciding where to apply the funds.

Limon and Tanksley, who will have a say in their department’s creativity, welcomed the financial infusion. Limon compared it to a winning “Little Lotto” ticket.

“It will help expand our after school program and other programs,” he said.

“Every little bit helps,” said his deputy chief, Greg Weiss, who noted Monday’s grant money is in addition to roughly $13,000 in BADGE money the department was already awarded for fiscal year 2010.

Tanksley said he hadn’t yet thought about where his department would direct the money. “I have a few ideas,” he said. “We’ll meet with (village manager) Tom Barwin this week.”

He said the funds will definitely go to Oak Park’s community policing effort and programs for at-risk youth.

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