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During National Police Week, Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Peters’ Bipartisan Legislation to Incentivize Community Policing

Peters’ Bill Aims to Address Law Enforcement Recruitment Challenges and Strengthen Trust Between Officers and Communities

WASHINGTON, DC – During National Police Week, the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved U.S. Senator Gary Peters’ (MI) bipartisan legislation to incentivize community policing.

Peters’ Strong Communities Act – which he again led introduction of with U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) – would help strengthen the relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve by incentivizing recruits to work in the communities where they live. The bill would provide federal grants to local law enforcement recruits who agree to attend school or academy and then serve in a law enforcement agency within their local communities. During a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies in March – Peters secured support for the bill from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice. The bill also previously passed the Senate last August.

“Trust between local law enforcement and the residents they serve is essential to keeping our communities strong and safe,” said Senator Peters. “By incentivizing officers to serve in the communities they call home, my bill would both help to address local law enforcement recruitment challenges and strengthen community trust.”

Many communities across the country are facing both a law enforcement recruitment crisis and a trust crisis. Peters’ Strong Communities Act – which he reintroduced with U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) – and is cosponsored by Dick Durbin (D-IL), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) – aims to help improve relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. By recruiting from within the communities, these recruits will know and better understand the people they are working to protect.

Recruits in the program would receive a grant through the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. The grants would decrease the financial burden of education and training for recruits, and in return applicants for the program would be required to serve as a full-time public safety officer for at least four years and complete their service in a local law enforcement agency located within seven miles of their residence, where they have resided for at least five years. Or, if the recruit resides in a county with less than 150,000 residents, the recruit could serve within 20 miles of their residence, where the applicant has resided for at least five years.

Peters’ Strong Communities Act is supported by numerous civil rights and law enforcement organizations:

“On behalf of the Urban League of Detroit & Southeastern Michigan, we genuinely express our wholehearted endorsement of Michigan U.S. Senator Gary Peters’ Strong Communities Act. We need to strengthen and rebuild the trust between police agencies and the communities they serve,” said N. Charles Anderson, President and CEO of the Urban League of Detroit & Southeastern Michigan. “The high profile deaths of citizens like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others have deepened distrust and at times caused adversarial and combative relationships with police rather than one of collaboration and support. We look forward to the Strong Communities Act helping to change this dynamic and to promote trust and building positive relationships between police and our communities.”

“The Police Officers Association of Michigan is proud to support Senator Peters’ bipartisan Strong Communities Act that would reinvigorate community policing,” said Kenneth E. Grabowski, Legislative Director of the Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM). “This commonsense bill would strengthen law enforcement agencies’ efforts to recruit officers locally and help police officers build relationships and trust with the communities and people they work to serve and protect. We urge the Senate to advance Senator Peters’ bill.”

“Attracting and hiring police officers to serve the communities they are from is a key component to a police department building trust with the citizens they serve,” said Lansing Chief of Police Ellery Sosebee. “This needed bipartisan legislation will not only help police departments like ours to address our recruiting and hiring issues but will attract folks who really understand the people and values of our community. Thank you, Senator Peters, for your continued leadership to support local law enforcement and ensure we have what we need to serve and protect the families in our communities.”

“Our office prides itself on the community-based partnerships and the positive relationships we have built with the people we are dedicated to serve,” said Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton. “By incentivizing officers to work in the communities where they live, this commonsense bill will help reinforce efforts to build trust and genuine relationships with the people we serve, who will be our neighbors. This bill also helps to mitigate the ongoing officer shortage crisis facing law enforcement agencies across the country by encouraging new recruits to join our profession. We applaud Senator Peters for his leadership and commitment to strengthening our communities by addressing this issue.”

“I strongly support the Strong Communities Act and applaud Senator Peters for leading this commonsense and needed legislation,” said City of Flint Chief of Police Terence Green. “This bill is in alignment with the City of Flint Police Department’s agenda of being an integral part of the community to improve community trust and public safety.”

“Police reform must connect officers with the communities they are sworn to protect,” said Patrice Willoughby, NAACP Vice President of Policy and Legislative Affairs. “The Strong Communities Act will incentivize recruits and officers to work in communities where they live. Multiple studies demonstrate that the representation, consistency and impartiality of police activity enhances trust and ultimately, safety. The NAACP welcomes Senator Peters’ and Senator Cornyn’s bill, and we look forward to its consideration as an effective tool of police reform.”

“This legislation helps build on the community-policing model and, we hope, will help address the recruiting crisis in law enforcement. The bill establishes a grant program for local law enforcement agencies to assist in recruiting officers in their own community,” said Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police. “Our law enforcement agencies should look like the communities they protect. The program created in this bill will allow recipient agencies to pay for recruits to attend a law enforcement training program provided that they serve in an agency in their community for at least 4 years. This will help local agencies recruit candidates from their own backyard and reduce the financial burden of their education and training to be law enforcement officers. We’re grateful to Senators Peters and Cornyn for their leadership and advocacy of this bill.”