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Friday, May 20th, 2022

Invest in Law Enforcement Act seeks funds for smaller police departments

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A new bill introduced by U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), and John Rutherford (R-FL) would provide $50 million in grants for small police departments to invest in training, equipment, personnel support, and mental health resources.

“Now more than ever, we need to make sure police departments in smaller and rural towns have the resources they need to set our officers up for success and keep our communities safe,” Slotkin said. “This bill does exactly that by funding specialized training for situations that require de-escalation or instances that may involve unique skill sets, including responding to domestic violence calls. After the tragedy we experienced in Oxford late last year, I’ve also seen firsthand the need to make sure our first responders have access to the mental health resources they need.”

Only departments with forces of 200 officers or less would be eligible under the Invest in Law Enforcement Act. Those eligible could access resources for training officers in modern ideas of safety, de-escalation, and domestic violence. They could also use funds for body cameras, data storage, mental health resources, and new privacy and security guidelines. Further, this money could help support personnel recruitment efforts, retention, and their enrollment in mental health, public health, and social work programs, as needed.

“Over the last year, law enforcement officers have faced many challenges and threats to their well-being that has created a dangerous environment for those sworn to protect the public,” Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, said. “These challenges have ranged from violence against officers, an increase of violent rhetoric against them, lagging technology, recruitment and retention issues, and mental health concerns. Particularly, smaller municipalities have seen an increased strain on the men and women in blue as they attempt to uphold the rule of law.”

Investment is the key to improving police departments, added Gottheimer, a member of the bipartisan Law Enforcement Caucus. He stated that cuts only serve to push good officers out and fuel a race to the bottom of quality. It’s a marked departure from calls to defund the police many had called for in the wake of the George Floyd murder in 2020.

“In short, when it comes to law enforcement, you need to invest to protect,” Gottheimer said. “Overall, this is about investing in the brave men and women in our departments — in their careers, their well-being, and their futures. That will make our communities safer. This legislation will provide critical financial support for recruitment, training, and mental health. And it sends an important message: we want our police officers to feel supported, especially when they are struggling with the realities of their profession. We want them to know that we have their backs and that they are appreciated for the job they do.”

The Fraternal Order of Police has officially endorsed the bill, alongside the National Troopers Coalition.