U.S. Reps. Tom Rice (R-SC) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) on Jan. 12 offered a bipartisan bill that would substantially increase compensation and hiring of law enforcement officers, particularly in America’s rural areas.
“The ‘defund the police’ craze has contributed to demoralized police forces and fewer good cops on our streets; it’s time to reverse course,” said Rep. Herrera Beutler, one of 10 original cosponsors of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) on the Beat Grant Program Reauthorization and Parity Act of 2022, H.R. 6375.
Rep. Rice sponsored H.R. 6375 with cosponsors who also included U.S. Reps. John Katko (R-NY), Young Kim (R-CA), and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA). The bill would appropriate nearly $1.05 billion in fiscal year 2022 for the COPS on the Beat Grant Program, which received $386 million in appropriations for FY 2021, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.
“I’m proud that this bill nearly triples the amount appropriated from last year for this program and it provides more funding than this program has been appropriated in a decade,” Rep. Rice said. “We can’t merely talk about the need for improving law enforcement relations, budgets and trainings. This legislation delivers on those calls for thoughtful and targeted solutions.”
If enacted, H.R. 6375 also would reauthorize the COPS on the Beat Grant Program for 10 years, expand access to COPS grants to rural communities, permit the grants to be used to increase wages for officers in low-income communities, and create a stand-alone COPS office within the U.S. Department of Justice, the summary says.
Rep. Herrera Beutler said that H.R. 6375 would ensure that “our brave men and women in blue — who lay their lives down on the line to protect our communities — are adequately compensated.”
“If we want well-trained police officers truly dedicated to protecting and serving all residents of our communities, it’s time to reinvest in our law enforcement rather than chasing them away or cutting their funding,” she said.
Additionally, the bill would require the U.S. Government Accountability Office to file a report on how well law enforcement agencies represent their communities; the percentage who live in the jurisdiction served; the average pay compared to cost of living in each jurisdiction; and recommendations for improving these data points, according to the summary.
“Police officers keep all kinds of communities safe, but those in rural and low-income communities often face barriers to doing their jobs effectively and efficiently,” said Rep. Rice. “The COPS on the Beat Grant Program Reauthorization and Parity Act will ensure all communities are well-staffed with officers who can meet the needs of the community, are trained properly, and paid a fair wage.”
The bill has been endorsed by Jarrod Bruder, executive director of the South Carolina Sheriffs’ Association. “A number of Sheriffs’ Offices across the state – including small, rural agencies – have successfully used these funds to enhance the level of public safety provided in their communities,” Bruder said. “We hope this bipartisan legislation is embraced and enacted quickly.”
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