An image of the Hillsdale Dis­trict Court | Wiki­media Commons

The city of Hillsdale was recently awarded several grants amounting to nearly $80,000 through the Hillsdale County Com­munity Foun­dation.

According to Sharon Bisher, the pres­ident and CEO of the HCCF, the non-profit orga­ni­zation accepts grants a couple of times a year, and then asks local orga­ni­za­tions what their needs are.

“We look at what the effects of these grants could have and then weigh that against the critical needs of the com­munity. Our role is that of the funder,” Bisher said.

This year, the Hillsdale County Dis­trict Court, the Hillsdale Police Department, the Hillsdale His­torical Society, the Hillsdale County Juvenile Court, and the Hillsdale College G.O.A.L. Program all received grants from the HCCF.

The City of Hillsdale’s Police Department received $10,000 for the purpose of pur­chasing body cameras for officers and two vehicles with fully equipped video systems, according to Chief of Police Scott Hephner.

Hephner said the police department has applied for grants in the past for body cameras and video systems, but last January was the first time they have been approved.

The police department will pur­chase 14 body cameras and two video systems to install within vehicles.

“The phi­losophy behind it is main­taining the city’s trust,” Hephner said. “It’s two-fold: if the police do some­thing wrong, it’s on video. If someone in the city does some­thing wrong, it’s on video.”

Many states are beginning to require local police depart­ments to pur­chase body cameras, according to Hephner.

“There’s been a lot of neg­ative media attention toward law enforcement. We’ve felt the fall-out even here in Hillsdale,” Hephner said.

Through this grant, Hephner hopes that Hillsdale’s Police Department will be ahead of the game here in Michigan, where body cameras are not yet mandatory. Their purpose is simply not to lose the public’s trust, according to Hephner.

“This is not a Big Brother step,” Hephner said.

The Hillsdale County Dis­trict Court also received $25,000 for the imple­men­tation of a Drug Treatment Court.

Judge Sara Lisznayi began the process of applying for this grant in Oct. 2016, and is finally beginning to see the fruit of her labor.

Mary Wolfram, director of eco­nomic devel­opment, said the Dis­trict Court received the grant in large part because of Lisznayi’s per­sonal inter­vention.

“She came up with the grant and its appli­cation, and the HCCF obvi­ously helped her,” Wolfram said.

According to Bisher, the HCCF was happy to fund the imple­men­tation of the Drug Treatment Court, because it will treat long-term issues.

“Drug problems have been in our com­munity for years, and we have struggled to find solu­tions,” Bisher said. “This is one way we can begin to do that.”

According to Wolfram, Hillsdale received these grants because of the people who have worked hard to earn them.

“These grants don’t just come to you,” she said. “They don’t just send you a check and you get it in the mail.”

In applying for a grant, extensive research is required, according to Wolfram. Each appli­cation requires the applicant to pull together data and really make a case as to why they would be a good recipient in order to receive a grant.

“You have to care about your job and you have to care about your com­munity,” Wolfram said.

Hillsdale also needs these grants, according to Wolfram. She believes it will go so far as to help boost the labor par­tic­i­pation rate, which is cur­rently at 56 percent — an all-time low in the state of Michigan.

“Employers can’t get employees to pass drug tests here,” Wolfram said. “This Drug Treatment Court is really, really needed in Hillsdale.”