Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Four Bills Supporting Law Enforcement, Public Safety

The four bills – advanced during National Police Week – help support police officers and protect public safety

WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted on a bipartisan basis to advance four bills supporting law enforcement to the full Senate during National Police Week.

“The bipartisan bills that we advanced today show our police officers who serve with dignity and integrity that we appreciate their service and stay committed to finding the best ways to support their profession. Officers are faced with challenges every single day, both on duty and off, as they tackle the physical, mental, and emotional toll of protecting public safety. We can support law enforcement by providing them the resources they need to safely and effectively do their jobs,” said U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

The Recruit and Retain Act would allow law enforcement agencies to use COPS grant funds to cover hiring costs and support onboarding for new officers. This bill, sponsored by Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Chris Coons (D-DE), would expand the COPS grant program to reduce the financial costs of hiring new law enforcement officers (e.g., background checks, psychological evaluations, etc.), and it would allow up to two percent of grant funding to cover the administrative burden of implementing COPS grants. The bill would also authorize 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. Lastly, the bill would create new guidance for COPS hiring grants to clarify the lack of consistent procedures for understaffed agencies, and it would require the GAO to conduct a comprehensive study on recruitment and retention challenges that law enforcement agencies face nationwide and how these trends impact public safety. The bill was approved by voice vote.

The Project Safe Neighborhoods Reauthorization Act of 2023 would reauthorize the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program, a nationwide law enforcement program that uses evidence-based and data-driven approaches to reduce violent crime. This bill, sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Gary Peters (D-MI), would also add additional purpose areas for which Project Safe Neighborhoods funds may be used, including hiring crime analysts to assist with violent crime reduction; the cost of overtime for law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and law enforcement assistants who assist with Project Safe Neighborhoods; purchasing, implementing, and using technology to assist with violent crime reduction; and supporting multi-jurisdictional task forces. Lastly, the bill would require the Attorney General to submit an annual report to Congress detailing how the Project Safe Neighborhoods grant funds are spent and other metrics for each area in which Project Safe Neighborhoods operates. A version of this bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent last Congress. The bill, as amended, was approved by voice vote.

The COPS on the Beat Grant Program Parity Act of 2023 would amend the COPS program to allow rural, low-income communities to use COPS hiring grant funding to increase law enforcement wages. This bill, sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), would expand access to COPS grant funds within rural communities, allow COPS grant funds to be used to increase wages for officers in low-income communities, and establish a standalone COPS office within the Department of Justice. The bill would also require the GAO to submit to Congress and make publicly available a report on how representative law enforcement officers are of their communities, the percentage of officers who live in the jurisdictions in which they are employed, average law enforcement officer pay compared to the cost of living in the jurisdictions in which they are employed, and legislative and administrative recommendations for improving the diversity of law enforcement agencies in relation to the communities they serve. The bill was approved by voice vote. 

The Strong Communities Act of 2023 would allow COPS grant program funds to be used to provide training to officers and recruits who agree to serve in law enforcement agencies in their communities. This bill, sponsored by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and John Cornyn (R-TX), would allow COPS grant program funds to be used for local law enforcement recruits to attend schools or academies if the recruits agree to serve in precincts of law enforcement agencies in their communities. This bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent last Congress. The bill was approved by voice vote. 

An archived video of today’s hearing can be found here.