Nov 17 2022
Fischer, Coons Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Boost Law Enforcement Hiring and Retention
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) today introduced the Recruit and Retain Act to help law enforcement agencies grappling with recruitment issues.
The legislation would primarily boost recruitment opportunities by significantly expanding the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants. This would help many agencies across the country that are both understaffed and struggling to attract new applicants. Additionally, the bill would create a new program to encourage partnerships between schools and police departments to foster a stronger local pipeline for law enforcement careers.
“Due to a number of factors, including the demonization of police, many law enforcement agencies are facing massive recruitment and retention challenges. Communities across the country are paying the price because without a well-staffed workforce, it’s simply harder for police departments to carry out their mission effectively. This bill would fundamentally invest in our law enforcement officers and support their tireless work to keep communities safe,” said Senator Fischer.
“Police departments in Delaware and across the country are facing real hiring and recruiting challenges that make it harder for them to keep our communities safe. As Co-Chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, I’m proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help these departments overcome those hiring issues and fill their ranks. The Recruit and Retain Act will provide resources to these understaffed agencies, help build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and have a tangible impact on public safety. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to pass this bill and send it to the President’s desk,” said Senator Coons.
The Recruit and Retain Act has received national endorsements from: The National Association of Police Organizations, the National Sheriffs Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and the Fraternal Order of Police.
The Recruit and Retain Act has received state support from: The Omaha Police Department, Kearney Police Department, Grand Island Police Department, Scottsbluff Police Department, Nebraska Sheriffs Association, Nebraska Police Chiefs Association.
The bill contains five key initiatives:
Supporting Officer Onboarding
- Expands Department of Justice’s COPS grants to reduce the financial costs of hiring new law enforcement officers (ex: background checks, psychological evaluations, etc.).
Reducing Administrative Burdens
- Permits up to 2% of grant funding to cover the administrative burden of implementing COPS grants. Many law enforcement agencies have noted this would offset the paperwork burden associated with COPS grants.
Authorizing New Pipeline Recruitment Program
- Authorizes the Pipeline Partnership Program within COPS to encourage collaboration between agencies and local elementary schools, post-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
- Creates new guidance for COPS hiring grants to clarify the lack of consistent procedures for understaffed agencies. This will ensure more eligible police departments are able to access COPS grants.
Shining A Light on Recruitment and Retention Challenges
- Directs a comprehensive study to illuminate recruitment and retention challenges law enforcement agencies face nationwide, and how these trends are impacting public safety.
"I appreciate Senator Fischer's understanding of the crisis levels of local police staffing nationwide. Senator Fischer and her staff listened to our needs and worked with us to craft language that will strengthen our ability to attract and retain high-quality law enforcement officers. We appreciate Senator Fischer's continued support,” said Chief Todd Schmaderer, Omaha Police Department.
“As a Police Chief in the 5th largest City in Nebraska, the Kearney Police Department is not immune to the challenges facing law enforcement today across the United States. While we have found success in recruiting and retaining the best and brightest to join the Kearney Police Department, it has not come without challenges and a lot of work through valuable local partnerships, particularly with our University, Community Colleges, and local government. We have also embraced creative strategies along with recent support through state legislation toward recruitment and retention. This bill will serve to strengthen our capabilities through the availability of COPS grant funding for recruitment, early and often student engagement through the Pipeline Partnership Program, and valuable information which I’m certain will be revealed through a study on police recruitment. The profession of Law Enforcement is a noble one and worth the time and effort to maintain and enhance our capabilities to provide safety, security, and a high quality of life for those who live, work, and raise families in our community. We appreciate the time, effort, and commitment from Senator Fischer and all those who will join this effort,” said Chief Bryan D. Waugh, Kearney Police Department.
“The Grand Island Police Department, like many other law enforcement agencies across the United States, are struggling to recruit, hire, and retain law enforcement officers and we are thankful that Senator Fischer has taken notice of this and has stepped forward in offering what we feel are meaningful solutions to these issues through her Recruit and Retain Act,” said Chief Robert Falldorf, Grand Island Police Department.
“With the challenges facing law enforcement in hiring and retention, we are very pleased to see this bill introduced. We believe that it will help law enforcement agencies to overcome some of the obstacles that we currently face such as lower number of applicants as well as providing guidance for COPS grants to understaffed agencies. Funding workforce investment into future candidates in education is a wise investment for our future workforce. A comprehensive study of law enforcement recruitment and retention trends will help point us in the right direction to solve some of these issues,” said Sheriff Neil A. Miller, Buffalo County Sheriff and President of the Nebraska Sheriffs Association.
“Law enforcement agencies nationwide are struggling to fill their ranks, and in retaining the police officers, they have significantly invested. I would say that this is quickly becoming a crisis for most agencies. Removing any of the financial obstacles facing law enforcement in hiring police officers will help with the recruitment of community police officers through the creation of a Pipeline Partnership Program. It also helps us understand how the profession found itself in this recruitment and retention crisis so we can get the support we desperately need. The PCAN deeply appreciates Senator Fischer and Senator Coons for their support of law enforcement,” said Chief Kevin Spencer, President of the Police Chiefs Association of Nebraska (PCAN) and Chief of Police for the City of Scottsbluff.
“Law Enforcement agencies across the country serving urban, rural, big, and small communities are struggling to enlist qualified candidates to help alleviate staffing shortages. Through important changes to the COPS Program, the Recruit and Retain Act would help remove financial obstacles to the law enforcement application process and aid in the recruitment of community police officers through the creation of a Pipeline Partnership Program. It also takes steps towards understanding how the profession found itself in this recruitment and retention crisis so we can get the tools and support we need to reverse it. NAPO thanks Senators Fischer and Coons for their support of the law enforcement community,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations.
“Sheriffs appreciate the Senators recognition of the declining ability to hire qualified candidates for local LE agencies. Law enforcement has seen recruitment efforts falter as a result of economic and social policy decline. Additional assistance from the COPS program will help in reaching our recruitment and retention goals,” said Sheriff Jim Skinner of Collin County, Texas and the Chairman of the National Sheriffs Association Government Affairs Committee.
“Nearly every MCCA member agency is understaffed, and many are having difficulty finding people who want to serve as law enforcement officers. Retention is also a challenge, and many MCCA members have reported that officers are leaving for smaller agencies. The Recruit and Retain Act creates a new grant program that will help strengthen recruitment and retention efforts by fostering partnerships between law enforcement agencies and educational institutions. The MCCA thanks Sen. Fischer and Sen. Coons for introducing this important piece of legislation,” said Eddie Garcia, Chief, Dallas Police Department and President, Major Cities Chiefs Association.
“Too many law enforcement agencies across the country are struggling to maintain a fully staffed police force and to recruit the best and brightest candidates to serve in their communities. The bill introduced today by Senators Fischer and Coons will help local law enforcement by expanding the scope of the COPS Hiring Program to allow these funds to be used to reduce application fees and other similar costs for job applicants. We think it can make a real difference," said Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police.
“Law enforcement is struggling to recruit and retain officers now more than ever. In rural areas, departments are struggling to bring on new officers. Meanwhile, urban areas are struggling to keep officers amid increasing violence and attacks. More and more, federal law enforcement is being pulled in to bridge the gap. But public safety requires robust and professional law enforcement officers and agents serving across our ranks. This legislation will help make that happen. FLEOA proudly supports the Recruit and Retain Act to ensure careers in law enforcement is a desirable career for all Americans with a desire to serve. We applaud Senator Fischer and Senator Coons for leading this necessary effort to enhance community safety,” said Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association President Larry Cosme.
Click here to read the text of the bill.