Bill Aims to Address Law Enforcement Recruitment Challenges and Lack of Trust Between Officers and Communities They Serve
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) today introduced bipartisan legislation that aims to strengthen the relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve by incentivizing recruits to work in the communities where they live. The Strong Communities Act would provide federal grants for local law enforcement recruits who agree to attend school or academy and then serve in a law enforcement agency in their respective communities. Peters introduced the bill with U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).
“We need to work to address the lack of trust between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect,” said Senator Peters. “My bipartisan bill would encourage community policing and help build stronger relationships between local law enforcement and the neighborhoods they serve. It would also incentivize people to serve in law enforcement in the communities they know best – the ones they call home and this not only could lead to increased trust and stronger relationships but also greater accountability. I’ll be looking to advance this commonsense, bipartisan legislation as we work to pass policing reforms.”
“Police officers who are from the neighborhoods they serve have a deeper understanding of how best to protect their community and its needs,” said Senator Cornyn. “This legislation would give states the flexibility to use the COPS program to fund local law enforcement grants for police officers that serve the area they call home.”
Many communities across the country are facing both a recruitment and a trust crisis. The Strong Communities Act aims to help to facilitate improved relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. By recruiting from within the communities, these recruits will know 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 five miles of their residence, where they have resided for at least five years. Or, if the recruit resides in a county with less than 100,000 residents, the recruit could serve within 20 miles of their residence, where the applicant has resided for at least five years.
The Strong Communities Act is supported by civil rights and law enforcement organizations.
“We must address the fundamental issues that erode trust and public safety between law enforcement and the African American Community,” said Hilary O. Shelton, Director to the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy. “Immediate change is required to create the climate of trust and integrity that is essential for communities of color and police officers to be safe. Encouraging community members to become law enforcement officers and protect and serve the areas where they call home will not only help build trust between communities and the officers who serve there but save lives. We are proud to support Senators Peters’ and Senator Cornyn’s bipartisan legislation that seeks to do just that.”
“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.”
“The nationwide response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks have underscored the critical and desperate need for systemic change,” said Clint Odom, Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy and Executive Director, Washington Bureau, National Urban League. “The National Urban League commends Senator Peters and Senator Cornyn for their bipartisan Strong Communities Act that would help rebuild trust between police officers and the communities they are sworn to protect and encourage recruits to serve in the communities where they live.”
“This legislation would help build on the community-policing model. More law enforcement officers will be recruited from their communities, which we believe will help create more effective officers and safer communities,” said Patrick Yoes, National President, Fraternal Order of Police.
This legislation comes just after Senator Peters announced his support for several Senate bills that would reform policing and improve officer training and increase accountability. These bills include the Eric Garner Excessive Force Prevention Act to ban the use of chokeholds, the Police Training and Independent Review Act to improve officer training and accountability, the Improving Justice Programs through Science Act to create a science advisory board within the Department of Justice, as well as the Law Enforcement Identification Act to require federal law enforcement officers to clearly identify themselves while engaged in crowd control at protests. Peters is also renewing a push to pass his bipartisan National Criminal Justice Commission Act. It passed the Senate in late December 2018 but time ran out before it could pass the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation, which has broad bipartisan support, would create a 14-member, bipartisan National Criminal Justice Commission charged with completing an 18-month, comprehensive review of the national criminal justice system, including federal, state, local and tribal criminal justice systems, and issuing recommendations for changes in oversight, policies, practices and laws to reduce crime, increase public safety and promote confidence in the criminal justice system.