New police officers in Nevada City sworn in tonight |

New police officers in Nevada City sworn in tonight

While other police staffs are issuing pink slips, a federal stimulus grant is pinning the badge to two new Nevada City officers and adding a new clerical staff member.

One new recruit is the first full-time female police officer in the city’s history.

The $510,000 rural policing grant was a lucky strike for the small force – 213 of the 1,253 applicants nationwide won the money. Of 42 applications from California, nine won.

“I just put forth what I thought we needed, and I really feel very fortunate,” said Nevada City police Chief Lou Trovato.

Grass Valley Police Department did not apply for this specific grant, called “Assistance to Rural Law Enforcement to Combat Crime and Drugs,” which focused on small towns and sparsely populated counties.

“It didn’t fit us,” said Grass Valley police Capt. Rex Marks. “The way I interpreted the grant announcement, we wouldn’t have met the requirements.”

Instead, he applied for four other grants last spring. GVPD won two, for a total of about $314,000, Marks said.

Nevada City’s crime rate is low, with 23 incidents of violent crime in 2008. Most were aggravated assault (The Union’s police blotter frequently reports fights at downtown bars), three were robbery and one was forcible rape, according to Department of Justice statistics.

But the awards were not based on crime rates, officials said.

Asked whether NCPD -which now has the largest group of sworn personnel in at least the past 14 years – needed the money less than other departments, Trovato paused.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I figured there was a need. I saw an opportunity, and they gave us the award.”

He hopes the grant-funded officers will help the department increase visible patrols; the added police presence is part of deterring crime, even in a low-crime area, the chief said.

“What happens when something does happen?” Trovato added. “People ask, ‘Why weren’t they there?’ They want them there yesterday.”

For the two new officers, who are scheduled to be sworn in at a City Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. today, and the new administrative staffer, the jobs are a boon, even though the grant funds them for two years.

Meet your new officers:

• Officer Lisa Stambaugh, 39, grew up in Nevada County, but her most recent stint has been 15 years with the University of California, Davis, campus police force.

Law enforcement runs in the family.

“You either love it or you hate it,” she said. “You’ve got to be geared toward that type of work.”

The new job cuts down on her commute, and it’s a change of pace from a university campus.

“This is more relaxed and more community-oriented,” Stambaugh said.

Officer Shane Franssen, 37, graduated from Nevada Union High School and worked as an officer in Placer County before returning to get back in the family business. He joined NCPD as a part-time officer in 2003 to keep his credentials current.

“I missed it,” Franssen said of police work. “I wanted to keep my foot in the door.”

Stimulus funding gave the Nevada City reserve officer his full-time break.

“It’s a unique, small-town community. If you don’t want to sit in a patrol car all day, you can walk around,” Franssen said.

• Monica Blancarte, 39, grew up in Orange County but came to Grass Valley 10 years ago to raise her three daughters. After losing her job at Nevada County Superior Court, she’s been unemployed for nearly a year.

More than 90 candidates applied for the administrative job, which involves keeping track of department records and reports; it had been vacant. She said she was happy to learn she was the one.

“When someone comes in (to City Hall), they know everyone – I like it,” she said.

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail or call (530) 477-4247.

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