The Independence Police Department is trying to secure grant funds to start a gang suppression unit, and city officials are also considering for public vote in August a sales tax initiative to fund new police hires.

The Independence Police Department is trying to secure grant funds to start a gang suppression unit, and city officials are also considering for public vote in August a sales tax initiative to fund new police hires.

The Independence City Council will hold a special study session next Monday to discuss the upcoming police budget. City Manager Robert Heacock told council members Monday night that the city plans to outline the police department’s budget for fiscal year 2009-10 (which begins July 1), including grants the city has applied for to address several quality of life issues such as emerging gang concerns and the hiring of additional police officers.

“I believe now is the appropriate time for us to have discussions of where we need to be with resources for the future needs of this community in respect to the police department,” Heacock said.

Heacock said part of the discussion will center on the city’s desire to add three positions to form a gang suppression unit by way of grant funding yet to be announced. The grant will fund a gang unit for three years, Heacock said, and the city will have the option to prolong the unit for an additional year.

“We are the fourth largest city in the state of Missouri and we have real issues facing us,” Heacock said. “As you can tell from past analysis, our resources have not been able to keep up.”

Also part of the special study session discussion will be an independent study’s finding from two years ago that concluded the police department needed to address personnel and staffing issues by hiring additional police officers and support staff.

Part of that discussion will include a unique public safety sales tax initiative approved last year by state legislators that would allow Independence residents to vote on enacting an additional sales tax to fund new hires. Heacock said staff will present a proposal to the City Council with the goal of placing the sales tax issue on the ballot in August.

“That’s the game plan at this point,” Heacock said, adding the city “continues to work to address all the crime issues the best way we can.”

Currently, a 1/8 of one percent public safety sales tax is on the books that allows the city and the department to address capital improvements to police buildings, equipment and vehicles. The sales tax initiative that could fund new hires is a new tax mechanism Heacock said was approved specifically for Independence and a few other municipalities around the state.

“We need to be ahead of the curve and be proactive in regards to emerging issues,” Heacock said, adding the sales tax “applies to some other cities, but it is not statewide.”