Feb 28 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) led U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in reintroducing the Recruit and Retain Act today. The bipartisan legislation would support law enforcement agencies by helping to address workforce challenges and bolster recruitment.
Among its provisions, the Recruit and Retain Act would increase officer recruitment opportunities through the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants so departments can cover hiring costs and apply to the program more easily. The bill would help law enforcement 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 local schools and police departments to foster a stronger hiring pipeline for law enforcement careers.
“Across the country, understaffed law enforcement agencies are struggling with massive workforce challenges that jeopardize public safety. This legislation would address these issues head-on by reducing the financial strain of recruitment expenses and opening up stronger hiring pipelines in the community. I’m proud of the growing bipartisan support for this legislation, and I look forward to getting this bill to the President’s desk,” said Senator Fischer.
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 Association, National Association of Police Organizations, and National Sheriffs Association.
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.
The bill contains five key initiatives:
Supporting Officer Onboarding
- Expands the U.S. 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
- Allows 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, 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 document how these trends are impacting public safety.
Click here to read the text of the bill.
State Stakeholder Support
"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, Chief of Police for the City of Omaha.
“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, Chief of Police for the Kearney Police Department and President of the Police Chiefs Association of Nebraska.
“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.
“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, Chief of Police for the City of Scottsbluff and Immediate Past President of the Police Chiefs Association of Nebraska (PCAN).
National Stakeholder Support
“Nearly every MCCA member agency is understaffed, and many are having difficulty recruiting new and retaining current officers. Solutions must address both elements of the issue, as it will take time to expand the universe of individuals interested in a career in law enforcement. The Recruit and Retain Act will help address this challenge by fostering partnerships between law enforcement agencies and educational institutions. The MCCA thanks Sen. Fischer, Sen. Coons, Sen. Cornyn, and Sen. Klobuchar for introducing this important piece of legislation,” said Laura Cooper, Executive Director, Major Cities Chiefs Association.
“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, Coons, Cornyn and Klobuchar for their continued 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.
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