John Rutherford, Josh Gottheimer Urge Senate to Pass Proposal to Help Rural Police Departments

At the end of last week, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., urged the U.S. Senate to pass 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 the year, U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-NJ, brought out the “Invest to Protect Act” on Thursday 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. 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 have become co-sponsors, including U.S. Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., and Darren Soto. Before he resigned from Congress to run against Gov. Ron DeSantis, then U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., also co-sponsored the bill.

“Cutting to the bone only weakens any profession; it pushes good people out, it diminishes the overall quality, and fuels a race to the bottom. That’s especially true in law enforcement. The only way to make a department better is to invest wisely, in training and tools, in recruiting and retaining the best talent, and ensuring they can be involved in the community. That’s how you keep families safe. In short, when it comes to law enforcement, you need to invest to protect,” said Gottheimer. “This legislation sends an important message: we want our police officers to feel supported, especially when they are struggling with the realities of their profession. We want them to know that we have their backs and that they are appreciated for the job they do.”

“Small police forces in rural areas often suffer from a lack of operational equipment and services,” said Rutherford when the bill was introduced “That’s why we introduced the Invest to Protect Act, which creates a grant program for departments with fewer than 200 officers to support critical resources like body cameras, training, retention, and mental health care. Thank you to my colleague, Rep. Gottheimer, for leading on this important legislation.”

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, at the end of last week, 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.

Kevin Derby
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