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In a rare public display of bipartisanship, Republicans and Democrats erupted in applause during the State of the Union earlier this month, when President Biden said we need to “defund the police.” resources and training they need to protect our communities. This is something many of us have been asking for months, if not years, especially given the recent tragic news.
Over the past two years in the United States, we have lost more than 900 police officers in the line of duty, including, tragically, two heroic NYPD officers earlier this year. In New Jersey, my home state, we have lost 20 officers in the line of duty in the past two years alone. Across the country, murder rates soared 27% in 2020. Violent crime is on the rise and homicides are at their highest level in nearly three decades.
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One thing is clear: we need to ensure that our officers and police services have all the tools they need to fight crime and protect themselves, our families and our communities. To build a future with less crime and save lives, we must invest to protect. Whether it’s a road or a school, despite what some have suggested, you can’t get there by cutting or defunding. You must invest, not definance.
Currently, more than 50 members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans — are working to advance legislation to invest in our local law enforcement. My bipartisan bill, the Invest to Protect Act, which I introduced with Congressman and former Sheriff John Rutherford, R-Fla., focuses on smaller departments across the country.
I represent 79 towns in northern New Jersey. Agents in these departments don’t have big budgets and staff, so things like cloud storage for body camera data and the training and support needed for agents all put a huge strain on their budgets. If we want to protect our communities and our agents, we must act now.
First, the bipartisan Invest to Protect Act will invest in officer safety, de-escalation and domestic violence response training, and offset overtime pay for officers in training. Second, this bipartisan bill will allocate resources for body-worn cameras while providing much-needed funding for data storage and security. Third, the bill will provide grants to small departments to recruit new officers, which will help expand departments and recruit new good officers. It will also provide retention bonuses to help departments retain their current officers. Finally, the Investment to Protect Act will include essential resources for departments to provide mental health resources to their officers.
Now, does this bill cover everything? No of course not. Are these crucial steps in making much-needed investments in our local police? Yes.
All in all, it’s about investing in the brave men and women of our services – in their careers, their well-being and their future. This will make our communities safer.
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That’s why this bipartisan bill has already won the support of the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), the National Sheriff’s Association, the National Troopers Coalition ( NTC), National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Officials (NOBLE) and major law enforcement groups in my home state of New Jersey.
To pass this legislation, I will continue to work with Democrats and Republicans to advance common-sense, bipartisan solutions. We need both sides of the aisle to come together to make sure we do more to keep communities and our police safe. This new bipartisan bill does just that.
We also need communities across our country to enforce the laws already in place and do more to keep violent criminals off the streets.
You cannot cut or defund your path to safer communities and better policing.
Finally, cutting to the bone only weakens any profession; it pushes good people away, lowers overall quality, and fuels a race to the bottom. This is especially true in law enforcement. The only way to improve a service is to invest wisely, in training and tools, in recruiting and retaining top talent, and making sure they can get involved in their community. We wouldn’t send our bravest into a burning building without an air tank, ladder and hose – and training in how to use them. Why wouldn’t we do the same for law enforcement?
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As New York City’s new Mayor, Eric Adams, a former police captain, recently said, “I don’t subscribe to the belief that some people have that we can only have justice and not public safety. We will have both. Adams is absolutely right. We can, and we will have both, thanks, in part, to new bipartisan legislation that many of us in Congress are fighting to help ensure safer and fairer communities.
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We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We need progress and we need to respect each other and not create barriers and conflicts between communities and agents.
You cannot cut or defund your path to safer communities and better policing. Instead, we must work together and invest to protect.
Democrat Josh Gottheimer is a U.S. Congressman from New Jersey’s Fifth District and co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.