John Rutherford, Josh Gottheimer Bring Back Proposal to Help Rural Police Departments

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., is once again championing a bill offering “targeted investments in local police departments and ensure that police officers in smaller communities across the country have the resources and training they need to keep themselves and their communities safe.”

At the start of last year, U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-NJ, brought out the “Invest to Protect Act” with the backing of almost 40 co-sponsors, including Rutherford, a career law enforcement officer who served three terms as sheriff of Duval County, as the main co-sponsor. Then U.S. Reps. Val Demings, D-Fla., and Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., were also original co-sponsors of the proposal.

Since then, more than 80 members of the House became co-sponsors, including U.S. Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., and Darren Soto. Before he resigned from Congress to unsuccessfully run against Gov. Ron DeSantis, then U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., also co-sponsored the bill.

The bill launches a federal grant program for police departments with less than 200 officers, including training, body-worn cameras, data storage and security, mental health resources and assistance for recruiting new officers.

At the end of September, the U.S. House passed the bill as 207 Democrats and 153 Republicans voted for it and 9 Democrats and 55 Republicans voted against it. Florida Republicans U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Mario Diaz-Balart, Neal Dunn, Scott Franklin, Carlos Gimenez, Bill Posey, Rutherford, Salazar, Greg Steube, Michael Waltz and Dan Webster and Florida Democrats Kathy Castor, Shelia Cherfilus-McCormick, Demings, Lois Frankel, Al Lawson, Murphy, Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Frederica Wilson and then U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch voted for the bill. Florida Republicans U.S. Reps. Kat Cammack, Byron Donalds, Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast voted against it.

At the start of August, the U.S. Senate passed the companion measure from U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., without opposition. With minor differences between the bills and time running out in the session, back in October, Gottheimer and Rutherford called on the Senate to pass the House version.

“Last month, the House of Representatives passed the Invest to Protect Act with sweeping bipartisan support. Nearly every Democrat and more than 150 Republicans came together to vote our legislation out of the House, to ensure small law enforcement agencies across the United States have access to the tools and resources they need. We request that you bring the Invest to Protect Act to the Senate floor for a vote as soon as possible in November,” the congressmen wrote U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “The Invest to Protect Act will make critical, targeted investments in small and midsize police departments with fewer than 125 sworn officers – which make up more than 96 percent of all local police departments nationwide. This legislation will invest in recruitment, retention, officer safety and de-escalation training, education, and mental health resources, giving officers the tools they need to keep themselves and our communities safe.

“This vital legislation was developed through many conversations with Republicans and Democrats in both chambers, and with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including the Congressional Black Caucus, National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP),” the congressmen added. “Across our country, we have seen a rise in crime. This is also at a time when it is harder than ever to hire, recruit, and retain officers.

“We must ensure that our local police departments have what they need to recruit and retain the finest officers, to provide necessary training, and to invest in providing mental health resources for our officers. We urge you to take swift action on this matter by bringing the Invest to Protect Act to the Senate floor for a vote next month so that the president can sign this bipartisan bill into law immediately,” they wrote in conclusion.

Gottheimer reintroduced the bill last week with more than 50 co-sponsors with Rutherford as the main one once again. Other co-sponsors include Salazar and U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla.

“Last Congress, the House passed the bipartisan Invest to Protect Act to help small law enforcement agencies with their recruiting and retention, training, and improving officer well-being,” said Rutherford. “As a former sheriff myself, I know the difference this funding can make and I see the challenges smaller agencies face when trying to navigate the federal grant process. I am eager to again work with Representative Gottheimer on passing our bill that will streamline the grant process for smaller law enforcement agencies and provide valuable resources to our officers.”

“The bipartisan Invest to Protect Act will make critical investments in our departments and ensure that our police officers in smaller towns across Northern New Jersey, and our nation, have the resources and training they need to keep themselves and communities safe,” said Gottheimer. “If you want to make something better, and there’s always room for improvement, whether that’s a road or a school, you don’t get there by cutting or defunding. You need to make smart, targeted investments. You must invest, not defund. You can have both justice and public safety. You don’t have to pick between one or the other. Today’s bipartisan legislation will help ensure we have both, and protect our communities and officers.”

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

Kevin Derby
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