RELEASE: Gottheimer to Introduce Bipartisan “Invest to Protect Act” to Support Local Police Departments

Endorsed by Law Enforcement Organizations Including NJ PBA, FOP, NJ FOP, NJ PBA, NAPO, NJ State Troopers Fraternal Association, NJ State Troopers NCO Association, Port Authority PBA, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. Co-led by Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep Horsford, Retired Sheriff Rep. Rutherford, and Retired NYPD Detective Rep. D’Esposito. Overwhelmingly Passed the House Last Congress, Bipartisan Companion Bill Introduced in the Senate.

May 05, 2023
Press

Above: Gottheimer at the Fort Lee Police Department announced the introduction of the bipartisan Invest to Protect Act.

FORT LEE, NJ — Today, May 5, 2023, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer announced the introduction of the bipartisan, bicameral Invest to Protect Act.

The bipartisan Invest to Protect Act — led by Gottheimer, former Sheriff Rep. John Rutherford (FL-5), Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Rep. Steven Horsford (NV-4), and retired NYPD detective Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (NY-4) — will make critical, targeted investments in small and midsize police departments with fewer than 200 sworn officers for the recruitment, retention, mental health support, and training they need to protect themselves and their communities. 94% of U.S. police departments have under 100 sworn officers and these smaller departments make up the majority of those in North Jersey.

The bipartisan legislation will be formally introduced in the coming days and already has 50 original cosponsors. In the Senate, identical companion legislation is being introduced by Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Last year, the bipartisan Invest to Protect Act passed the House with 360 votes, including 153 Republicans. The Senate also passed a version of the legislation last year, but the final agreed upon bill was not voted on.

The bipartisan, bicameral Invest to Protect Act of 2023 will:

  • Invest in officer safety, de-escalation, and domestic violence response training, allowing officers to receive critical training that will make them even more effective at their jobs; 
  • Create grants for small departments to recruit and retain new officers, to help keep their existing officers and recruit new ones;
  • Allow departments to provide mental health resources for their officers; and,
  • Authorize $50,000,000 of existing funding per year for 5 years for local police departments.
  • Find text of the Invest to Protect Act here.

Statistics on crime, police shortages, and officer mental health: 

  • In New Jersey, deadly shootings are up 30% since the beginning of the pandemic and in Bergen County there has been a more than 50% increase in car thefts in the last year. 
  • FBI data on hate crimes shows a nearly 12% increase in incidents, with nearly 65% being racially motivated. 
  • Police departments saw 47% more resignations and nearly 20% more retirements in 2022 compared to 2019. There has been a sharp decline in the number of applicants to police academies. 
  • According to a recent study, the rate of PTSD among police officers increased by nearly 30% from January 2020 to April 2021.

The bipartisan Invest to Protect Act is endorsed by the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the New Jersey FOP, the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association (NJSPBA), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), the National Troopers Coalition (NTC), the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association, the Port Authority PBA, Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), the NJ State Troopers Non-Commissioned Officers Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, the National Tactical Officers Coalition, and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. 

“The bipartisan Invest to Protect Act will make critical investments in our departments and ensure that our police officers in smaller towns across Northern New Jersey, and our nation, have the resources and training they need to keep themselves and communities safe, said Congressman Josh Gottheimer, a member of the bipartisan Law Enforcement Caucus. “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. You must invest, not defund. You can have both justice and public safety. You don’t have to pick between one or the other. Today’s bipartisan legislation will help ensure we have both, and protect our communities and officers.”

“Last Congress, the House passed the bipartisan Invest to Protect Act to help small law enforcement agencies with their recruiting and retention, training, and improving officer well-being,” said Congressman John Rutherford (FL-5), retired sheriff. “As a former sheriff myself, I know the difference this funding can make and I see the challenges smaller agencies face when trying to navigate the federal grant process. I am eager to again work with Representative Gottheimer on passing our bill that will streamline the grant process for smaller law enforcement agencies and provide valuable resources to our officers.”

“Small and mid-size police departments are essential to protecting communities across Nevada and the country; that is why we need to give them the tools to prevent crime before it happens. Investments in crime prevention and violence interruption programs, after-school programs, and mental health resources will be complemented by these increased resources for these departments. The partnerships that can be built between communities and police will help make all of our communities safer and make our criminal justice system fairer and more accountable for all. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to advance this bill and others that invest in smart solutions and improve accountability because we all should agree bad policing should have no place in any community,” said Congressman Steven Horsford (NV-4), Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“As a retired NYPD Detective, I know how difficult the job of policing is and I am committed to marshaling the full resources of the federal government to support America’s law enforcement professionals in carrying out their mission to serve the public,” said Congressman Anthony D’Esposito (NY-4), retired NYPD detective.  “The Invest to Protect Act is one way Congress is working to provide law enforcement agencies with an expanded toolkit of training options and mental health resources for their personnel, and I am proud to co-sponsor this crucial piece of legislation.”

Support for the bipartisan, bicameral Invest to Protect Act:

“Congressman, I want to thank you for championing this bill. In my 30 plus years of being a practitioner, along the years we’ve found out there has not been funding for us to have the various programs as well as funding to deal with the issue of mental health in our law enforcement community,” said Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton. “I want to thank you for this bill and thank you for all you’ve done for the law enforcement community, the first responder community, and we truly appreciate it. “As always, I know you got our back.”

“It’s critical that we stand up for local and state law enforcement all across New Jersey so we can keep our families and communities safe. I’m proud to support Congressman Josh Gottheimer and his bipartisan Invest to Protect Act to ensure local police departments have the training and resources they need,” said New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Colligan. “Congressman Gottheimer’s advocacy for first responders does not just help North Jersey — he fights for officers throughout the country.”

“Over the last few years, law enforcement officers have faced many challenges and threats to their well-being that have created a dangerous environment for those sworn to protect the public. These challenges have ranged from violence against officers, an increase in violent rhetoric against them, lagging technology, recruitment and retention issues, and mental health concerns. Smaller municipalities are experiencing increased strain on the men and women in blue. We believe that the “Invest to Protect Act” can help our nation’s smaller agencies and departments combat these issues that plague law enforcement officers in smaller municipalities and help these same smaller agencies recruit new officers and retain experienced personnel,” said National Fraternal Order of Police President Patrick Yoes.

“The Department of Justice’s law enforcement assistance grant programs provide much-needed resources, training, and technical assistance to many state and local law enforcement agencies. However, small agencies across the country are getting left behind due to their inability to complete the onerous Federal grant solicitation process. The Invest to Protect Act will create a broad grant program specifically for small agencies that will give them easier access to resources to help them train their officers, implement, or expand body-worn camera programs, and retain and hire officers. We thank Representative Gottheimer for his leadership and we look forward to working with him to ensure all law enforcement agencies have the support and resources necessary to serve and protect our communities,” said National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) Executive Director Bill Johnson.

“Our nation is suffering from a surge in crime and a plunge in the confidence in police. This Bill so perfectly addresses both issues by providing positive support to the men and women on the front lines who are directly responsible for combating crime, while building trust with the public and earning the confidence of all communities that we serve in,” said New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association President Wayne Blanchard. “The funding mechanisms in this Bill provide essential components to our police officers, especially in financially challenged agencies, for enhanced training in multiple operational and interpersonal aspects of policing.  This Bill accounts for the costs of training so that agencies are left with no reason to not put the best trained police officers out in communities. The funding will also assist officers in investing in themselves to become more well-rounded police officers, by providing education incentive assistance and mental health support. Finally, it provides funding for agencies to acquire public confidence building infrastructure, such as body worn cameras, a tool our troopers have been utilizing since late 2015.”

“The National Troopers Coalition, representing 42000 state troopers across the country, is pleased to support this bipartisan initiative to provide law enforcement agencies of all sizes and scope the resources necessary to keep communities safe across our country. We look forward to working with Rep. Gottheimer and his colleagues towards enactment of the Invest to Protect Act,” said Chairman of the National Troopers Coalition Nate Johnson.

“The State Troopers NCO Association strongly supports Congressman Gottheimer’s Invest to Protect Act, as it takes the common sense approach of supporting law enforcement with necessary training to ensure that Police Officers are fully equipped to handle every situation they encounter.  We thank Congressman Gottheimer for his continued support and willingness to find logical solutions to bring together the public and those sworn to protect and serve them,” said New Jersey State Troopers Non-Commissioned Officers Association President Daniel Oliveira.

“Unfortunately, while it’s no secret that crime is out of control across our great nation, it’s critical that Congress finally and adequately invest in law enforcement and its needs to keep communities safe. The Gottheimer legislation would provide the necessary resources for recruitment, retention, equipment and mental health services needed for their success and ultimately the safety and well-being of our communities,” said National Sheriffs’ Association Government Affairs Committee Chair and Collin County Texas Sheriff Jim Skinner.

“Improving public safety is a universal priority across law enforcement and is equally important in every locality in the U.S., from the smallest of towns to the largest metropolitan areas,” said President Vincent Vallelong of the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association. “That is why the federal government must ensure that smaller communities are not disadvantaged when it comes to applying for and receiving federal grant funds for hiring and training police officers and improving recruitment and retention efforts.  We appreciate Rep. Gottheimer’s continued leadership on the ‘Invest to Protect Act’ and other issues of importance to the law enforcement community.”

“On behalf of the National Tactical Officers Association and its over 40,000 members nationwide, I commend Rep. Gottheimer for introducing The Invest To Protect Act of 2023 and strongly support this important legislation. By directing needed support and assistance to local law enforcement departments, this bill serves as a significant step forward in strengthening our nation’s communities by providing vital training and resources to the law enforcement officers who serve those communities that they are sworn to protect,” said National Tactical Officers Association Executive Director Thor Eells.

“On behalf of PORAC and the more than 78,000 public safety officers we serve, we are proud to be a strong supporter of the Invest to Protect Act – a meaningful piece of bipartisan legislation that would authorize $50 million a year for a new grant program for police departments with fewer than 200 officers,” said PORAC President Brian Marvel. “PORAC has been calling for increased grant funding to support our nation’s law enforcement profession for years. Especially with the challenges our state and nation are facing today as a result of rising crime and violence, difficulties in recruiting and retaining officers, and decades of underfunding public safety, investments in our local law enforcement agencies are needed now more than ever.”

Gottheimer was joined today at the Fort Lee Police Department by State Senator Gordon Johnson, Assemblywoman Ellen Park, Bergen County Commissioner Mary Amoroso, Bergen County Commissioner Rafael Marte, Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, Fort Lee Councilman Harvey Sohmer, Fort Lee Councilman Brian Drumgool, Fort Lee Councilman Paul Yoon, Fort Lee Councilman Joseph Cervieri, President of New Jersey PBA Patrick Colligan, First Vice President of the State Trooper Fraternal Association Steven Kuhn, President of the Port Authority PBA Frank Conti, President of the State Troopers Non-Commissioned Officers Dan Oliveira, New Jersey FOP Recording Secretary Jim Troisi, and local first responders.

Watch the press conference here.

Below: Gottheimer at the Fort Lee Police Department announced the introduction of the bipartisan Invest to Protect Act.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

It’s an honor to be here today with so many of our heroic first responders.  

First and foremost, I want to reiterate my deep and unwavering support for all that you do. Every day, you wake up, put on a bulletproof vest, kiss your loved ones goodbye, and then put your lives on the line all day to look out for us. Here at the Fort Lee Police Department, you are a shining example of law enforcement working hard and giving back to your community.

For that reason, and so much more, that’s why we must always get the backs of everyone who helps protect our communities and our nation. I am grateful for your service and sacrifice.

Just days before National Police Week begins, we are here with law enforcement from across our state — to announce new bipartisan legislation — the Invest to Protect Act — that will bring key resources to help fund local police departments across New Jersey, including right here in Fort Lee.  

I’m leading the bill in the House with retired Sheriff, Republican Congressman from Florida, John Rutherford. It already has 50 original cosponsors, Democrats and Republicans, including the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, my good friend Steven Horsford, and Anthony D’Esposito, a retired NYPD detective — and it hasn’t even been formally introduced yet.

In the Senate, the identical companion legislation is being introduced by Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

This bipartisan, bicameral bill will make critical investments in law enforcement — in training, in recruitment and retention of officers, and in mental health — to protect our officers, our families, and our communities. As hard as it is to be in law enforcement on a good day, it’s even harder these days. 

These officers literally put their lives on the line every time they pull over or chase down a vehicle, enter a home with a domestic dispute, administer NARCAN, chase down a criminal, handle a hate crime, confront a robber or even a terrorist. Are they carrying a gun or a knife? Will they pull over? Will they even roll down their window and hand over their license? 

From 2022 through right now, in New Jersey alone, we have lost five officers in the line of duty – and 279 nationally.

And crime is up: the number of deadly shootings is increasing, up thirty percent in New Jersey since the beginning of the pandemic. Car theft is up nearly sixty percent and carjackings are up nearly thirty percent in major cities across the country compared to pre-pandemic levels. I’ve been working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and federal law enforcement to address the issue right here in Bergen where we’ve seen a more than fifty percent increase in car thefts in just the last year. And FBI data on hate crimes released last month shows a nearly twelve percent increase in incidents, with nearly 65 percent being racially motivated.  

I’ll tell you this: you won’t make our communities safer by slashing budgets and defunding departments. That won’t stop the violent criminals, gang members and terrorists, it won’t stop the robberies and car thefts, or help us fight hate crimes and shoplifters. Cutting any profession to the bone only weakens it — including police departments; it weakens training, it pushes good people out, and it fuels a race to the bottom. In our beautiful state with picturesque communities, with what we pay in taxes, we deserve safe streets where our kids can ride their bikes and our families can safely go on walks. 

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. When it comes to law enforcement, you need to invest to protect.

We wouldn’t send our bravest firefighters 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?

In my discussions across the aisle in Congress — about our law enforcement — a key item that’s brought up is that our smaller towns and departments don’t always get the resources they need. And those smaller departments make up the majority of those here in Northern New Jersey. In fact, 94 percent of U.S. police departments have under 100 sworn officers.

Unfortunately, only about ten percent of local police departments receive federal funding. 

Smaller departments don’t always 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 things like equipment and the necessary training and support for officers all put a huge strain on local budgets and it costs them a fortune in overtime — if they can even find the time.

So, what’s the result? More stress and more mental health issues and turnover. We need the best on the job — that’s the only way to prevent future problems.

The bipartisan Invest to Protect Act will make critical investments in our departments and ensure that our police officers in smaller towns across Northern New Jersey, and our nation, have the resources and training they need to keep themselves and communities safe.

First, my bipartisan bill will invest in officer safety, de-escalation, and domestic violence response training, allowing officers to receive critical training that will make them even more effective at their jobs.

Specifically with domestic violence response training, this will empower 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. 

In 2020, New Jersey police reported more than 63,000 domestic violence offenses. 

Just last month right here in Jersey, a police officer was shot responding to a domestic violence call. He lived, thank God.

But, every year, police officers all across the country are tragically killed on domestic violence calls. 

This bill will help stop that. 

Second, the Invest to Protect 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. 

In 2022, Police departments saw 47 percent more resignations and nearly 20 percent more retirements than in 2019 — putting incredible strain on police departments. And, on top of that, we’ve seen a sharp decline in the number of applicants to police academies, including here in New Jersey. 

This bill will help recruit and retain the good cops, which will lead to stronger, safer communities.

Third, the bipartisan Invest to Protect Act will allow departments to provide mental health resources for their officers. Being a police officer is not easy and the pandemic didn’t make it any easier. According to a recent study from January 2020 to April 2021, the rate of PTSD among police officers surged an alarming 30 percent. Addressing mental health is critical for law enforcement — for themselves, their families, and help keep our communities safe.

Overall, the Invest to Protect Act is about investing in the brave men and women in our departments — in their careers, their well-being, and their futures. This bipartisan bill will make our communities safer. 

Finally, let me say that this bipartisan legislation was developed through many conversations with our communities and local law enforcement and is endorsed by key law enforcement organizations including the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the NJ FOP, the New Jersey State PBA, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), the National Troopers Coalition (NTC), the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association, the Port Authority PBA, Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), the State Troopers Non-Commissioned Officers Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, the National Tactical Officers Coalition, and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.  In crafting this legislation, we also worked with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Congressional Black Caucus, and I’m very grateful for their input. 

I think we’d all agree that no profession is perfect. There are always a few bad actors. We’ve definitely got some of those in Washington, as we all know. 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 and selflessness every day.

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. You must invest, not defund. 

You can have both justice and public safety. You don’t have to pick between one or the other. Today’s bipartisan legislation will help ensure we have both, and protect our communities and officers.

Now, does the bill cover everything? No, of course not. Are these critical steps to make much needed investment in our local police and our local communities? Yes, absolutely.

Most importantly, this is legislation that can actually get through both chambers of Congress and to the President’s desk.

Last year, the bipartisan Invest to Protect Act passed the House with more than 300 votes, including 153 Republicans. The White House also publicly supported my bipartisan bill. The Senate passed a version as well, but we never got to the final bill. The good news is that we are moving together in lock step, early in the new Congress, and moving forward together.

So, ahead of this upcoming National Police Week, we are all working together to introduce this bipartisan bill, get it passed out of the House and Senate, and get it to the President’s desk.

This bill also builds on work I’ve done already to help ensure that North Jersey’s small town police departments are eligible for critical investment from the federal government. In recent years, we’ve helped claw back millions of dollars and resources for North Jersey’s police, fire, and EMS departments. This is a critical part of my work — to help our departments look for, apply to, and win grants — to lower taxes and protect our communities

There’s always more work to do — 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, life-saving work they do every single day.

Our bipartisan, bicameral Invest to Protect Act will help us do this, for all of our communities, especially here in North Jersey.

Again, you can’t cut or defund your way to safer communities and better police departments. Instead, it’s about investing to protect.

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

Thank you and God bless.

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