By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Some 220 cities and counties across the United States are sharing $111 million in federal grants to retain and hire police officers, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday.
Beneficiaries of the Justice Department funds include Los Angeles, which received a $6.4 million grant to fund 25 officers, and Chicago and Philadelphia, which each got $3.1 million for 25 officers.
That is a relative drop in the bucket for departments like Philadelphia, which has a police force of 6,300 officers, Los Angeles, with about 10,000 officers, and Chicago, with an authorized strength of more than 12,000.
Holder said the funds from the Community Oriented Policing Services Office (COPS) come at a critical time for the nation's police.
"Last year thousands of officers were laid off - and, due to budget shortfalls, thousands of positions could not be filled. In total, 85 percent of all law enforcement agencies reported cuts," Holder said at a press conference in Philadelphia.
The city's mayor, Michael Nutter, has laid out a plan for increasing his police department to 6,500 officers.
Holder said the money will save the jobs of 200 officers across the country, and allow 600 more to be hired nationwide. Those 600 jobs are being reserved for military veterans under the COPS program.
Justice Department data show 28 California police departments will receive grants, with the largest one going to Los Angeles.
In Florida, where seven communities are grant recipients, Polk County led the state with an award of $1.8 million for officers.
(Editing By Barbara Goldberg and Xavier Briand)