Smaller U.S. police departments could see increased funding under a proposed bill from a North Jersey lawmaker.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer introduced bipartisan legislation, Invest to Protect Act, into the House of Representatives this month to better support local police departments in the 5th Congressional District and across the U.S..
The Invest to Protect Act was designed to provided targeted investments in small and mid-sized police departments across the country. The criteria would be law enforcement agencies with fewer than 200 sworn officers.
Investing in Police
“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 Gottheimer while speaking in Fort Lee on May 5.
The legislation would tackle issues facing these smaller offices, including recruitment and retention efforts, mental health supports, and critical training programs with a focus on de-escalation and officer safety.
$50 Million Authorization
“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,” added the lawmaker.
In total, the legislation would authorize $50 million of existing funding per year for five years for local police departments.
The money would be awarded as grants, going to such programs as 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; and allow departments to provide mental health resources for their officers; and,
A Rising Issue in New Jersey
Gottheimer noted the investments would impact rising issues in New Jersey, including a 30% increase in shootings since the beginning of the pandemic and, in Bergen County, a 50% increase in car thefts in the last year.
Gottheimer pointed to statistics that police departments faced 47% more resignations and 20% more retirements in 2022 when compared to 2019, and there has been a sharp decline in the number of applications to police academies. For those still on the force, the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for officers increased nearly 30% between January 2020 and April 2021.
“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.”
Back for Another Attempt
An identical companion legislation is being introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) Nevada and Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
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 bill is endorsed by a wide groups of police unions across the U.S. and in the Garden State, including the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police (NJ FOP), the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association (NJSPBA), the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association (NJ STFA), the Port Authority PBA, and the NJ State Troopers Non-Commissioned Officers Association.