Today, the House passed U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Chris Coons’ (D-Del.) bipartisan Recruit and Retain Act (S. 546). This legislation will address staffing shortages nationwide by enhancing law enforcement agencies' access to federal hiring tools. The bill now heads to the President’s desk. U.S. Representatives Wesley Hunt (R-Texas) and Glenn Ivey (D-Md.) introduced the identical companion legislation in the House.

“The law enforcement staffing crisis nationwide is not slowing down and continues to threaten public safety. My Recruit and Retain Act will reduce hiring costs and create local workforce pipelines to build a new generation of police. I want to thank Nebraska’s law enforcement officers who helped design the legislation, as well as my colleagues for their overwhelming support. I look forward to seeing this bill signed into law,” said Senator Fischer.

“For too many years, police departments in Delaware have faced alarming recruitment problems. The Recruit and Retain Act will help departments across the nation hire more officers by addressing high onboarding costs and authorizing a new pipeline recruitment program. As co-chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, I’m proud to lead this bipartisan bill to ensure that our police departments can hire qualified officers that reflect our communities. I am grateful to my colleagues in the House for their support, and I look forward to President Biden signing this important bill into law,” said Senator Coons.

“I'm proud to say this bipartisan bill has been endorsed by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, Major County Sheriffs of America, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Sheriff's Association, and others. When our police departments are well-funded and maintained, our communities are safer,” said Representative Hunt.

“Recruiting and retaining highly trained law enforcement professionals is of the utmost importance.  Our ability to attract and develop the best, brightest and most compassionate and dedicated men and women of differing backgrounds is vital to the health and well-being of our nation.  Keeping our residents safe and promoting better relations with our citizenry can only lead to safer streets and better policing.  I look forward to working with all who care about our country and a path forward for good law enforcement standards.  We must incentivize hiring and keeping the people who will do the job of safeguarding us from border to Broadway and everywhere in between,” said Representative Ivey.

The Recruit and Retain Act would improve the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants by making them more responsive to onboarding costs and hiring challenges. The bill’s sensible reforms would help law enforcement agencies across the country hire new officers more easily, as many continue to face staffing shortages and struggle to attract new applicants. This includes the creation of a new program to encourage partnerships between schools and police departments to foster a stronger local pipeline for law enforcement careers.

The Recruit and Retain Act has received national endorsements from the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Major County Sheriffs of America, National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs Association, R Street Institute, and the Peace Officers Research Association of California.

The legislation also has received state support from the Nebraska Sheriffs Association, Police Chiefs Association of Nebraska, Kearney Police Department, Omaha Police Department, and Scottsbluff Police Department.

Click here to read more about stakeholder support. 

Click here to read the text of the bill.  

The bill contains five key initiatives:

Supporting Officer Onboarding

1. Makes the U.S. Department of Justice’s COPS grants more flexible to reduce the costs of hiring new law enforcement officers (ex: background checks, psychological evaluations, etc.).

Reducing Administrative Burdens

2. Allows up to 2% of grant funding to alleviate the administrative costs of implementing COPS grants, to align with similar Justice Department programs. Many law enforcement agencies have noted this would offset the paperwork burden associated with COPS grants. 

Authorizing New Pipeline Recruitment Program 

3. Using existing funding, authorizes the Pipeline Partnership Program within COPS to encourage collaboration between agencies and local elementary schools, secondary schools, and institutions of higher education for students interested in future careers in law enforcement. Qualifying partnership activities would include: dedicated programming for students, work-based learning opportunities, project-based learning, mentoring, community liaisons, career or jobs fairs, work site visits, job shadowing, and skills-based internships.

Providing Better Grant Guidance for Understaffed Agencies

4. Creates new guidance for COPS hiring grants to clarify the lack of consistent application procedures for understaffed agencies. This will ensure more eligible police departments are better able to access COPS grants.

Shining a Light on Recruitment and Retention Challenges

5. Directs a comprehensive study to illuminate and provide much-needed data on the latest recruitment and retention challenges law enforcement agencies of all sizes face nationwide, and document how these trends are impacting public safety.

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