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“Our Police and Other Law Enforcement Officers Do Essential Work To Keep Us Safe and Secure. Choosing Not To Support Them Is To Choose Chaos, Lawlessness — A Nightmare.”

During a speech on the Senate floor this week, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) called on President Biden to sign her bipartisan Recruit and Retain Act into law, which was presented to the president on Monday after a decisive vote in 
the House of Representatives last week. The Senate has already unanimously approved the bill, which will address staffing shortages nationwide by enhancing law enforcement agencies' access to federal hiring tools.

During her remarks, Senator Fischer discussed the recruitment challenges law enforcement in Nebraska and around the country are facing. Senator Fischer outlined how the bill will reduce hiring costs and create local workforce pipelines to build a new generation of police.

 

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Following is a transcript of Senator Fischer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

In 1969, the city of Montreal, Canada discovered what it’s like to live in a world without police.

For 16 hours on October 7th, the city’s full police force went on strike. What ensued is now called Montreal’s night of terror.

The city rang out with gunshots, glass shattering, and flames erupting. Just three hours after the strike began, the first bank was robbed. Robbers stormed nine more before police returned.

Thefts, vandalism, and mob violence took the city by storm.

There were 450 break-ins and over 30 armed holdups. A crowd 800-strong overturned a bus and set vehicles ablaze.

The government sent provincial police and army officers into the city, but by then the chaos was already in full force. A sniper shot one officer, killing him.

The result of Montreal’s night of terror was two dead men, dozens of injuries, over a hundred arrests, and close to $3 million in property damage.

Less than a day without police was a nightmare for Montreal. 

Here in America, we often take our strong police force for granted. We enjoy the safety and protection of law enforcement sometimes without even realizing it.

But if trends continue, we will inch closer to living the nightmare of a world without police.

In 2022, almost 50 percent more officers resigned than in 2019. Almost 20 percent more officers retired. The number of police officers nationwide decreased by 4,000 between 2020 and 2023.

A study in 2023 found that over the prior two years, at least 12 American towns completely dissolved their police departments.

I’ve been speaking with law enforcement in Nebraska and around the country about growing staffing challenges for years. I greatly respect the state and local control of law enforcement agencies, so I always ask them how I can make existing federal tools more supportive of their work.

Based on those conversations, I introduced the Recruit and Retain Act, which the House passed last week. I’m thankful to the Nebraska officers and sheriffs who collaborated with me to craft legislation with bipartisan appeal.

As retirements increase and new applications decline, departments are shrinking, burdening the officers who are trying to keep them afloat. Understaffed departments are doing their best to keep up, but they don’t always have the resources to hire the officers they need.

The Recruit and Retain Act offers them better access to resources to reverse this trend.

My legislation improves the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, hiring grant program. The bill extends COPS grants for specific onboarding expenses like background checks and psychological evaluations.

It also provides clearer guidance to the understaffed agencies applying for this funding, and it alleviates administrative burdens that come with these applications.

These changes will allow departments to consider more applicants and hire more officers.

Recruit and Retain also establishes the Pipeline Partnership Program to promote student interest in law enforcement careers. Departments and local schools will work together to launch mentorship opportunities that give young people an inside look at law enforcement work.

This will not only create a hiring pipeline for police departments, but it will also strengthen community relationships with law enforcement.

Finally, my bill directs the Government Accountability Office to investigate the causes of recent recruitment challenges and their effects on public safety.

We see some of these causes and effects already. Anti-police movements like the far-left Defund the Police push have demonized law enforcement. And we’ve seen rising crime levels in places like Portland, Minneapolis, and New York City after they cut funding for their police departments.

Nonetheless, we haven’t seen comprehensive studies that evaluate all levels of law enforcement, in agencies of all sizes, across the country. To address staffing issues, we need the data on exactly what is causing these problems and how they are compromising the safety of our communities.

These are practical changes that take our law enforcement a step forward in rebuilding their departments — a goal that will serve officers, local communities, and our nation as a whole.

Our police and other law enforcement officers do essential work to keep us safe and secure. Choosing not to support them is to choose chaos, lawlessness — a nightmare. But by passing my bill, the House and the Senate have both chosen to support our police as they face these staffing challenges.

I urge President Biden to do the same by signing the Recruit and Retain Act into law.

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