MILFORD — The Police Department will be getting some much-needed help from the federal government to recruit entry level officers and minorities.

After the Board of Aldermen's approval to accept the funds this week, the department will receive a $13,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to implement a recruitment campaign to attract entry level candidates over the next four years.

A major part of that campaign will be geared toward attracting black and Hispanic officers — both of which are sorely underrepresented in the Milford Police Department — with plans for advertisements to be placed in minority newspapers, magazines and Web sites, according to Lt. Ed Shea.

"This grant will help us to be as competitive as we possibly can, because as time goes on we are faced with increasing competition from other departments around the state," Shea said.

Shea said a six-member panel of officers will be involved in the campaign.

The department, which includes 109 uniformed officers, is adding six new members, according to police spokesman Officer Vaughan Dumas. Dumas said the testing process is still taking place and the six new trainees will soon begin attending the state's Police Academy and should be available to join the department by the spring.

Dumas said Thursday he and the chief's office could not immediately provide the number of minorities in the department.

City Personnel Director John Boland said he was also unaware of the number of minorities in the police or fire departments, but that each included a total of 127 uniformed and civilian employees.

Police Commission Chairman L. Kenneth Fellenbaum said that while he didn't know the exact number, "there are just a few minority officers in the department."

Shea and Police Chief Keith L. Mello told the aldermen that with increasing competition from other departments, the grant will help to find and hire the best possible entry-level applicants, including minority candidates.

In order to receive the funds, they said, the Justice Department requires grant applications be approved by the governing body of the agency receiving the funds — in this case, the Board of Aldermen.

Several aldermen asked how the grant would be used, and why the competition has become more aggressive.

"It's just something we realize has happened over time, and we need to do whatever we can to get the word out about the benefits of working for the Milford Police Department," Shea said.

Alderman Ben Blake, D-5, said: "We want the best and brightest applicants for our police and fire departments. But sometimes it takes being more aggressive, and I think this grant will help us to do that."