RELEASE: Gottheimer Announces Bipartisan Invest in Law Enforcement Act

New Bipartisan Bill Cosponsored by Former Sheriff Rep. John Rutherford to Help Make Critical Investments in Local Police Departments. Invests in Training, Mental Health Support, Body Cameras, Recruitment and Retention.

 

Above: Gottheimer at the Dumont Police Station to announce the Invest in Law Enforcement Act.

DUMONT, NJ — Today, Monday, January 10, 2022, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced new bipartisan legislation, the Invest in Law Enforcement Act, also known as Invest to Protect Act, to make critical, targeted investments in local police departments and ensure that police officers in smaller towns across Northern New Jersey and nationwide have the resources and training they need to keep themselves and our communities safe. The bipartisan bill’s lead Republican cosponsor is former sheriff, Congressman John Rutherford (FL-4).

The Invest in Law Enforcement Act includes provisions to: 

  1. Invest in officer safety, de-escalation, and domestic violence response training, to allow officers to receive critical training that will make them more effective at their jobs, without putting a strain on department budgets or reducing the number of officers on duty while others are at training by allowing investment to be used to offset overtime pay.
  2. Allocate resources for body worn cameras — to hold everyone accountable — while also providing much-needed funding for data storage and data security.
  3. Provide grants for small departments to recruit new officers — helping expand departments and bringing in new, good officers. It will also provide retention bonuses to help departments keep their existing officers and provide investment for officers pursuing graduate degrees in public health, social work, and mental health. 
  4. Provide critical resources for departments to provide mental health resources for their officers.

The bipartisan legislation is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Troopers Coalition (NTC), and the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association.

“Cutting to the bone only weakens any profession; it pushes good people out, it diminishes the overall quality, and fuels a race to the bottom. That’s especially true in law enforcement. The only way to make a department better is to invest wisely, in training and tools, in recruiting and retaining the best talent, and ensuring they can be involved in the community. That’s how you keep families safe. In short, when it comes to law enforcement, you need to invest to protect.” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer, a member of the bipartisan Law Enforcement Caucus. “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.”

Gottheimer continued, “I’ve also realized that if you want to make something better, and there’s always room for improvement, whether that’s a road or a school, you don’t get there by cutting – or defunding. You need to make smart, targeted investments. In other words, you need to invest, not defund. As New York City’s new Mayor, Eric Adams, a former Police Captain, recently said, ‘I don’t subscribe to the belief of some that we can only have justice and not public safety. We will have them both.’ Adams is exactly right — we can and we will have both, thanks, in part, to the actions we are announcing today that will help ensure a safer, more just community.”

“Congressman Gottheimer is in the forefront of ensuring the law enforcement community has the necessary funding to provide access to the newest technology, educational and training opportunities,” said Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton. “Law enforcement is constantly evolving and the legislation for funding, outlined in the Congressman’s bill, is essential to better policing.”

“Our state and local law enforcement all across New Jersey are critical to keeping our families and communities safe, and it’s critical that we stand up for them in return," said New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Colligan. "I’m proud to be joining Congressman Gottheimer today as he continues his fight to support Jersey’s law enforcement and as he introduces the Invest in Law Enforcement Act, to ensure local police departments have the training and resources they need."

“The STFA is proud to stand in support of the Police Investment Act. We commend Congressman Gottheimer for his interest in and support of law enforcement. This Act provides funding for vital functions for police officers such as training and education as well as funding for necessary tools such as body worn cameras (BWC),” said New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association President Wayne Blanchard. “All of these investments are a huge win for individual police officers, police agencies, and the citizens we proudly serve. ”

“If 2022 is anything like the past two years, then it will be another tough year for law enforcement and we will need backup more than ever whether it is on patrol or in the legislative halls of government,” Thomas Mungeer, National Troopers Coalition Chairman. “It is refreshing to see that Congressman Josh Gottheimer is demonstrating that he is willing to step up and support the men and women who don a uniform and help protect his constituents every day of the year.

“As Mayor of Dumont and 2nd Vice-President of the Jersey City Police Superior Officers Association, I am proud to stand with Congressman Gottheimer and support the bipartisan ‘Invest in Law Enforcement Act’ bill. This bill will assist municipalities with funding for police officer recruitment, retention, education, training, and equipment,” said Dumont Mayor Andrew LaBruno. “Investing in law enforcement is crucial to public safety, and Congressman Gottheimer always works to ensure our women and men on the frontlines have what they need to protect themselves and their communities.”

“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,” said Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police. “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. The ‘Invest in Law Enforcement Act' would be a step in the right direction to combat these issues that plague law enforcement officers in smaller municipalities.  On behalf of the more than 364,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police, I am proud to offer our support for this incredibly necessary legislation.”

This new bipartisan legislation builds on work Gottheimer has already done to help ensure that small town police departments are eligible for critical federal investment. This past year, Gottheimer’s provision was signed into law to help identify disparities between smaller departments and larger departments in the LESO/1033 program — a federal initiative that delivers equipment sitting idly and that might otherwise be destroyed to local first responders.

Gottheimer has also been involved in bipartisan police reform discussions with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, and with law enforcement.

Watch the press conference here.

The bill text of the Invest in Law Enforcement Act can be found here.

Below: Congressman Gottheimer with State Police Benevolent Association President Pat Colligan.

 

Below: Gottheimer with Bergen County Commissioner Germaine Ortiz and Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton.

 

Below: Gottheimer with Dumont Police Officers. 

 

Below: Gottheimer with Thomas H. Mungeer, Chairman of National State Troopers Union and President of the New York State PBA.

 

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery: 

It’s an honor to be here in Dumont with our heroic first responders from across my District and State to announce new bipartisan legislation that will make critical investments in law enforcement to protect our officers, our families, and our communities.

I want to start by reiterating my deep and unwavering support for all of you for what you do. Every morning, you wake up, put on a bullet proof vest, kiss your husbands, wives, and children goodbye, and then put your lives on the line all day to look out for us. For that reason, and so much more, that’s why we must always get the backs of our first responders, and all those who serve our nation, including our veterans and active duty. I am so grateful for your service and sacrifice – and for all of the unsung heroes who save lives and protect us, without great fanfare, and often at great risk.

Over the last two years, in New Jersey alone, we have lost twenty officers in the line of duty – and more than 886 nationally. In that spirit, I also want to take a moment to recognize and pray for the family of a brave officer we lost this weekend in North Jersey. Julio Noriega served the North Bergen community with great distinction, and he will be deeply missed.

As New York City’s new Mayor, Eric Adams, a former Police Captain, recently said, “I don’t subscribe to the belief of some that we can only have justice and not public safety. We can have them both.” Adams is exactly right — we can and we will have both, thanks, in part, to the actions we are announcing today that will help ensure a safer, more just community.

Now, I think we’d all agree that no profession is perfect. There are bad actors and they should always be held accountable. We’ve got some of those in Washington. And, believe me, like you, I’m not proud to be associated with them – and I’d like them out. But, what I’ve learned is that you don’t paint everyone with the same brush, especially those who do what you do with such bravery every day. And, I’ve also realized that if you want to make something better, and there’s always room for improvement, whether that’s a road or a school, you don’t get there by cutting – or defunding. You need to make smart, targeted investments. In other words, you need to invest, not defund.

Cutting to the bone only weakens any profession; it pushes good people out, it diminishes the overall quality, and fuels a race to the bottom. That’s especially true in law enforcement. The only way to make a department better is to invest wisely, in training and tools, in recruiting and retaining the best talent, and ensuring they can be involved in the community. That’s how you keep families safe. In short, when it comes to law enforcement, you need to invest to protect.

We wouldn’t send our bravest into a burning building without an air tank, ladder, and a hose — and the training on how to use them. Why wouldn’t we do the same for our law enforcement?

The new bipartisan legislation I am announcing today — the Invest in Law Enforcement Act — or, as it’s also know, the Invest to Protect Act, which I wrote with Republican Congressman and former Sheriff John Rutherford, will make critical investments in our departments and ensure that our police officers in smaller towns across Northern New Jersey and America, like Dumont, have the resources and training they need to keep themselves and our communities safe. Training to prevent unnecessary conflict, mental health support and services for our officers, body cameras to hold everyone accountable, and resources to recruit and keep good officers walking the streets in our towns.

I spent the last year or so working closely with Democrats and Republicans from all over the country, in the House and Senate and the states, on police reform, including with members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, Senators Cory Booker and Tim Scott, Congresswoman Karen Bass and Congressman Pete Stauber, and representatives from law enforcement – including NAPO and the PBA, FOP, the Black Sheriffs Association, and our New Jersey State Troopers Association. We met week after week, and, while we haven’t landed on a final piece of legislation, yet, there are many areas where we have found strong agreement. Many of those policies are captured in this bipartisan bill.

One thing we discussed is that our smaller towns and departments, in particular, don’t get the resources they need. And those smaller departments make up the majority of those here in Northern New Jersey. In fact, 94% of U.S. police departments have under 100 sworn officers. In my District, for example, I represent 79 towns. Most of them have their own police department, often with only a few cars on the road at any given time. They simply don’t have the financial resources to afford the overtime and make some of the necessary investments.

The officers in these departments, like the one right here in Dumont, don’t have large budgets and staff, so they are constantly having to work overtime to protect their residents. As a result, our local departments are stretched thin, and the pandemic has been even tougher on our first responders. Things like cloud storage for body cameras and the necessary training and support for officers puts a huge strain on their budgets and it costs them a fortune in overtime – if they can even find the time.

So, what ends up happening? More stress and more mental health issues and turnover, especially now when police officers are being attacked all the time, wherever they go. We need the best on the job — that’s the only way to prevent future problems. But it’s tough these days. And the larger departments and big cities get the bulk of the money for training, support, and recruitment. I wrote this bill in part by working with law enforcement here in Jersey and in my District, and representatives from the PBA, State Trooper Fraternal Association, the FOP, Port Authority, the chiefs, and our Sheriff, to understand what they need.

The new Invest in Law Enforcement Act answers that call and will invest in small police departments for the equipment, support, and training they need, and in a way that allows them to utilize those resources to make meaningful investments in their officers and our communities.

First, my bipartisan bill will invest in officer safety, de-escalation, and domestic violence response training, and will offset overtime pay for officers training.

That means officers can receive critical training that will make them more effective at their jobs, without putting a strain on department budgets or reducing the number of officers on duty while another is at training.

We know that the training funded by this bill — like crisis intervention — is proven to keep officers focused on crime — helping reduce the time officers spend responding to mental health calls and putting officers back into the community more quickly.

It also invests in domestic violence response training — empowering officers with new tools and tactics to connect victims to community resources, legal support, and safety. Domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous and lethal for law enforcement. Every year, police officers all across the country are tragically killed on domestic violence calls. This bill will help stop that.

Second, the Invest in Law Enforcement Act, known as the Invest to Protect Act, will allocate resources for body worn cameras, while also providing much-needed funding for data storage and data security. Although many departments have access to cameras, the cloud-based storage needed to make them effective can be prohibitively expensive, preventing departments from being able to do the right thing, even when they want to.

Body worn cameras are critical; there is strong evidence that they reduce use of force, helping to make everyone safer. There is also clear evidence that they improve community trust in the police by increasing transparency, and reduce investigation time for arrests, citizen complaints, and lawsuits. They also allow officers to revisit interactions and understand what they did right and what they could have done better — helping improve our police departments every day.The bill will also assist small departments with standardized privacy and storage practice guidelines.

Third, the Invest in Law Enforcement Act will provide grants for small departments to recruit new officers – helping expand departments and bring in new, good officers. It will also provide retention bonuses to help departments keep their existing officers. No one hates a bad cop more than a good cop – and this bill will help recruit and retain the good cops.

Our departments are seeing record rates of retirements. As one officer here in New Jersey told us, when you have high turnover, “it does major long term damage” because of all the institutional knowledge you lose. This bill addresses this issue head on and will help our departments retain good officers, which will lead to stronger, safer communities.

Finally, the Investment in Law Enforcement Act will provide critical resources for departments to provide mental health resources for their officers.

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.

Let me reiterate: Defunding our police and randomly cutting budgets does not lead to safer communities. Investments in the professional growth, safety, transparency, and mental health of officers and departments do. 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. Again, you need to invest to protect. 

Now, is this bill the be all, end all? Does it cover everything? No, of course not. Are these critical steps to make much needed investment in our local police? Yes.

I will keep working with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate to find solutions on other pressing challenges like choke holds and no knock warrants – and those are two areas where New Jersey has been on the cutting edge. But we aren’t there yet. I believe we can get there and we must. But, we also must keep making progress where we can. This new, bipartisan bill does that. We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We need progress. And we need to respect each other — not create walls and conflict between communities and officers.

This bill also builds on work I’ve done already to help ensure that our small town police departments are eligible for critical investment from the federal government. This past year, we passed my amendment in the annual defense bill that will help identify disparities between smaller departments and larger departments in the LESO/1033 program, a federal initiative that delivers equipment sitting idly and that might otherwise be destroyed, to local first responders. It helps ensure our smaller departments are receiving their share of resources through this program and are not being left in the dust, while large city departments receive all the investment and equipment.

In recent years, through the 1033 program, we’ve helped towns get trucks, computers, generators, and other vital equipment. And, while protecting our police and fire departments and communities, we’ve helped save taxpayers real money.

I am also very focused on helping police departments look for, apply to, and win grants like the COPS grant— it is a critical part of our work. In recent years, we’ve helped claw back millions of dollars and resources for our police, fire, and EMS departments.

But we must do more — which is why we are here today — we need to make more resources available to our police departments, especially our smaller departments. So, they can continue to do the dangerous, lifesaving work they do every single day with the real support they deserve, with the training they need, and the tools to keep themselves and our communities safe. This is how we build safe communities and the best possible police departments.

My new bipartisan Invest in Law Enforcement Act will help us do this, for all of our communities, especially the smaller ones.

Again, you can’t cut or defund your way to safer communities and better police departments. Instead, it’s about investing to protect. It’s about supporting our brave law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line and helping them be the best they can be.

By working together, I know here, in the greatest country in the world, our best days will always be ahead of us.

Thank you and God bless.

###