RELEASE: Reps. Axne, Gottheimer Lead 19 House Democrats In Push To Support Small, Rural Police Departments

Members Urge House Leadership To Advance Bipartisan, Bicameral Invest To Protect Act to Fund Small Police Departments

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Reps. Cindy Axne (IA-03) and Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05) led a letter to House Leadership urging them to bring bipartisan, bicameral legislation — H.R. 6448, the Invest to Protect Act — to the House floor to better support rural and small police departments.

The bipartisan Invest to Protect Act would create a new grant program to invest in local police departments that have fewer than 200 officers. Grants would be available for officer training, recruitment, and other personnel costs, as well as body cameras and other equipment. The legislation will also reduce excessive reporting requirements of metrics that often do not apply to small areas.

“The only way to make a department better is to invest wisely in de-escalation and domestic violence training and essential tools, in recruiting and retaining the best talent, and to ensure they can be involved in their community,” the Members of Congress wrote in a letter to House leadership this week. “We need to ensure our officers and police departments have all the tools they need to fight crime and protect themselves and our families…For these reasons, we urge you to bring this key bipartisan, bicameral, legislation to the floor.”

The Invest to Protect Act was introduced in the House of Representatives in January by Reps. Gottheimer, John Rutherford (FL-04), and a group of other bipartisan cosponsors. The House bill now has 56 total cosponsors. The Senate companion was introduced in March and led by Senators Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Grassley (R-IA), Warnock (D-GA), and Cassidy (R-LA). 

The letter was signed by Reps. Sanford Bishop (GA-02), Antonio Delgado (NY-19), Ed Case (HI-01), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Jim Costa (CA-16), Susie Lee (NV-03), Lou Correa (CA-46), Mike Levin (CA-49), Chris Pappas (NH-01), Kim Schrier (WA-08), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Dean Phillips (MN-03), Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), and Darren Soto (FL-09).

Background:

Currently, two of the largest Department of Justice grant programs are open to all police departments and sheriff’s offices across the U.S., pitting smaller police departments against the largest metropolitan areas when applying for funding. Between 2012 and 2018, law enforcement agencies from South Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah, Iowa, and Montana applied for a total of 577 Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants, but less than a third of those applications were approved.

The Invest to Protect Act would establish a grant program available to police and sheriff’s departments with fewer than 200 officers for a variety of investments, including:

  • Safety, de-escalation, domestic violence response, and other types of training.
  • Officer recruitment and retention, including signing and retention bonuses.
  • Mental health resources for officers.
  • Body cameras, secure storage, and other equipment.
  • Overtime and personnel cost.
  • Additionally, the legislation will cut red tape by reducing overly bureaucratic reporting requirements of metrics that often do not apply to small and rural areas.

Administrative, management, and reporting requirements that rural law enforcement leaders have reported as difficult and cumbersome to keep up with often lead to police departments being unable to apply because the grants are not designed with the realities of their work.

The bipartisan legislation is endorsed by the National Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs’ Association, and National Troopers Coalition.

Read the full letter sent by the Members here:

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Chairman Nadler, and Ranking Member Jordan:

During the State of the Union address, President Biden stood before Congress and said, “We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police. It's to fund the police. Fund them. Fund them. Fund them with resources and training.” We strongly support the President’s words and leadership and applaud the more than 10% increase in funding for State and local law enforcement in the Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bill. We write to request that the House bring legislation to the floor in the coming months to infuse our local police departments and their personnel with new resources to ensure our communities and officers are safe and secure and invest in our officers. 

As national crime rates increase, including homicides, car jackings, and assaults, now is the time to support local law enforcement through passage of bipartisan, bicameral commonsense legislation. Cutting to the bone only weakens any profession; it pushes good people out, diminishes 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 de-escalation and domestic violence training and essential tools, in recruiting and retaining the best talent, and to ensure they can be involved in their community. We need to ensure our officers and police departments have all the tools they need to fight crime and protect themselves and our families.

H.R. 6448, the Invest to Protect Act, is bipartisan, bicameral legislation that Congressional leadership should bring to the floor. This legislation is strongly supported and endorsed by national, state, and local law enforcement stakeholders and labor unions, and funds the critical needs of our local police departments. A Senate companion was recently introduced by Senators Cortez-Masto, Grassley, Warnock, and Cassidy. It ensures that our local, rural, and smaller police departments receive a fair chance at grants that support hiring, training, body cameras, and so much more.

Now is the time to send a clear message that we support investing in our women and men in blue. For these reasons, we urge you to bring this key bipartisan, bicameral legislation to the floor in the next few months. To make our communities safer, build a future with less crime, and save lives, we should not defund — instead, we must invest to protect. 

Sincerely,

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

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