April 2022 POAM Washington Report

Police Overhaul Provisions Dropped from the Spending Bill

In a major win for POAM and law enforcement allies, the final act of the annual Congressional Appropriations process put to rest any effort to add a host of so-called “police reform” provisions via the budget process this year. Throughout negotiations, some Members of Congress had tried to use the funding bill to address law enforcement procedures and related issues that had been raised earlier and failed in the U.S. Senate. Ultimately a bipartisan group of Representatives foiled those efforts and forced them to abandon the push to use federal funding legislation to change local police procedures this year.

The move is the latest setback for reformers in the efforts to promote procedural reforms and address potential racial bias, concerns that had been amplified in nationwide protests in 2020 after a series of high-profile deadly encounters between officers and the public. The U.S. House had passed a stand-alone policing overhaul bill in March 2021, mostly along party lines. But opposition stalled that legislation in the Senate and months of negotiations for a Senate bipartisan deal came up short.

Using an alternative strategy, reform advocates decided to use the power of the purse. In a fiscal 2022 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill introduced in July, they successfully inserted some policy conditions on the grant money that flows to local and state police agencies. Those provisions survived a House Appropriations Committee markup but ultimately derailed a House floor vote because of bi-partisan opposition from Republicans and Democrats in swing districts.

By the time the fiscal 2022 omnibus spending bill was released, those policing provisions were gone from the section dealing with the Justice Department. Congressman John Rutherford (R-FL), former Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff, had unsuccessfully tried to get those conditions removed from the bill during a committee markup in July, and had argued in part that agencies would be unable to comply for a year and miss out on funding. “The original bill would have essentially defunded the police on a federal level by tying grant funding to standards that were nearly impossible for state and local law enforcement agencies to meet,” Rutherford said through a spokesperson. He added, “The way forward is through an accreditation process that grants money on the front end and holds agencies accountable to achieving certain benchmarks.”

Throughout this entire process, the combined efforts of POAM and allies across the country sounded alarms and raised the awareness of elected officials, turning back several flawed plans. Credit POAM leadership and POAM members that went to work and made this happen — Congratulations!

President Signs $1.5 Trillion Government Funding Bil

Following lengthy Congressional negotiations, on Tuesday, March 15th, 2022, President Biden signed into law a sweeping $1.5 trillion bill that funds the government through September, providing money for federal government activities, including millions in assistance for a wide range of police and law enforcement programs.

After months of negotiations, the final text of the funding bill was introduced in early March and moved quickly through the House and Senate, where it passed with bipartisan support. The legislation stretches more than 2,700 pages and funds the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. The President also highlighted funding for law enforcement programs, opioid response, and a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that were included in the bill stating, “It sends a clear message to the American people that we are investing in safety, health, and the future of Americans.”

The bill funds the full breadth of federal government activities and includes specific funding for a number of law enforcement programs at the state and community levels including Grants to State and Local Law Enforcement – $3.9 billion is provided, an increase of $506.4 million above FY ‘21. This includes $512 million for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) programs; $201 million to address sexual assault kits and other DNA evidence backlogs; $115 million for Second Chance Act programs; $572.5 million for grant programs to address substance use disorders; $135 million for the STOP School Violence Act; $575 million for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) prevention and prosecution programs; $95 million for grants to improve the NICS firearms background check system; $50 million for a new Community Violence Intervention and Prevention initiative; and nearly $300 million in community projects to fight crime and improve public safety in communities across the country. The Byrne JAG program received a significant increase in funding over FY ‘21 levels and is funded at $674.5 million, with carve-outs for the mental health training, the VALOR Program ($13 million), and Project Safe Neighborhoods ($20 million), among others.

Other priorities were funded at similar levels to last fiscal year: $30 million for the Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) Grant Program; $20 million for the Adam Walsh Act; and $82 million for the STOP School Violence Act through the BJA. The spending measure also included $415 million for grants programs to respond to the opioid crisis and substance abuse in communities.

Congress also provided $120 million through BJA for programs to improve community-police relations, of which $35 million is appropriated for the Body-Worn Camera Initiative to help agencies purchase and maintain body-worn cameras, $35 million for community recidivism reduction programs, and $50 million for the community violence intervention and prevention initiative.

Reps. Moolenaar & Walberg support Pro-Police Bill

Congressman John Moolenaar (R-MI 4th) and Tim Walberg (R-MI 7th) have sponsored the “Protect and Serve Act” (HR 3079), a bill that would create a new federal offense for those who deliberately target local, State, or Federal law enforcement officers with violence and is a direct response to the increased number of law enforcement officers who have been targeted for violent attacks.

Representative Walberg stated “We’ve seen an unfortunate spike in attacks on law enforcement—both in political discourse as well as physical violence. This past year tragically set a record for the number of law enforcement officials killed in the line of duty. As crime rises and elected officials continue damaging anti-police sloganeering, it is more important than ever to stand with the brave men and women who risk their lives to keep our streets safe.”

In response to the surge of violence directed at law enforcement officers in the form of calculated and ambush-style attacks, Reps. Walberg and Moolenaar joined a bipartisan group of former law enforcement officers now serving in the House sponsoring this legislation, which would impose Federal penalties on individuals who deliberately target law enforcement officers with violence. In 2018, the Committee on the Judiciary voted unanimously to report this legislation favorably, and soon after, it was passed by the full House on an overwhelming 382-35 vote.

In 2021, 346 were shot in the line of duty, 63 of whom were killed. The lethality of these attacks would have been much greater but for the dramatic improvements in medical trauma science and anti-ballistic technology. One hundred and thirty officers were shot in 103 separate ambush-style attacks, which resulted in 30 officers being killed by gunfire. The 115% increase of ambush-style attacks from 2021 to 2020 is another stark reminder that our law enforcement officers are not just in harm’s way due to the dangerous nature of their profession, but that they are the targets of cowardly individuals whose sole motivation is to injure or kill a law enforcement officer.

In light of these chilling facts, it’s critical this legislation move forward to address the national problem of ambushes and unprovoked attacks on our nation’s law enforcement officers. No officer should be at risk of being targeted while simply performing their duties.

Michigan Representatives Support COPS Funds

Michigan Representatives, Elissa Slotkin (D-8th), Peter Meijer (R-3rd), and Fred Upton (R-6th) have joined former police officer & Jacksonville, FL Sheriff, Representative John Rutherford (R- 4th), in sponsoring the “Invest to Protect Act” (HR6448). The legislation would establish a grant program, administered by the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that would be used for the training of officers from police departments and municipalities that employ less than 200 law enforcement officers. The funding appropriated would be $50 million over a five-year period. These pieces of training would include de-escalation, domestic violence, and officer safety programs. Additionally, this bill could also be used to provide body-worn cameras for these local municipalities. This includes funding for the storing and securing of body camera data that is collected.

 The “Invest in Law Enforcement Act” will

  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 office.

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 have seen an increased strain on the men and women in blue. The legislation would be a step in the right direction to combat these issues that plague law enforcement officers in smaller municipalities.

This legislation can also be used for the recruitment of new officers, and to help address the retention issue of current officers. The funding could also be used by officers, from eligible departments, that are pursuing graduate education in mental health, public health, or social work degrees. These officers could receive up to $10,000 in aid towards their tuition. Lastly, the funding could also be used for mental health services, treatments, and therapies for active police officers.

For More Information

POAM will continue to share related legislative information about this April 2022 POAM Washington Report through our online platforms, including our website, social media – Facebook and Twitter – and the mobile app.

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