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 (MI) reintroduced 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 previously introduced the legislation last Congress. Peters introduced the legislation with U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).
“It’s critical to build trust between local law enforcement and the communities they serve,” Senator Peters said. “By encouraging community policing, this bipartisan bill would 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 call home. Community policing can lead to better outcomes and more accountability, which is important as our nation works to reform policing.”
“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 law enforcement 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.
“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.”
“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.”
“For too many police departments, for far too long, the relationship between officers and the communities they serve is foremost adversarial and confrontational, rather than collaborative and cooperative,” said Joi Chaney, Executive Director, National Urban League Washington Bureau. “The Strong Communities Act would transform that relationship and rebuild the trust that is essential to public safety. We thank Senator Peters and Senator Cornyn for their leadership and look forward to working with them on this important issue.”
“Your 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, President, National Fraternal Order of Police.