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Bill would prioritize funding for small police departments, access to mental health resources

Police car with blue lights on the crime scene in traffic / urba
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The Invest to Protect Act of 2022 would ensure funding for police departments in rural communities, and training and access to mental health resources.

The legislation passed the U.S. House with a 360 to 64 vote on September 22.

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, a former federal law enforcement officer, helped introduce the bill earlier this year.

“This legislation follows our prior increases to funding to the Community Oriented Policing Program through the appropriations process,” Spanberger said on the House Floor according to a press release. “The Invest to Protect Act would help get the job done of ensuring that police departments, particularly those like I represent in smaller and rural communities, have the ability to recruit and retain officer. This legislation invests in officers’ safety. It invests in domestic violence response training. It invests in funding the police departments like those I represent. Throughout Virginia’s Seventh District, I hear directly from local police departments about the need for stronger investments in training, equipment, recruitment, and retention.”

Endorsed by the National Fraternal Order of Police, the National Troopers Coalition (NTC), and the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), the legislation is led by Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and John Rutherford, a former sheriff, of Florida.

“And as a former law enforcement officer, I greatly admire and am thankful for the dedication of men and women who work every day to keep our communities safe,” Spanberger said. “I want to thank my colleagues, Congressman Gottheimer and Congressman Rutherford, for their leadership on this legislation. I’d like to thank CBC Chair Beatty for her partnership on these important issues of public safety and public trust — and I appreciate that this bill has the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Association of Police Officers. This is smart investment, smart policy. And, at this moment, we should have the common commitment to keeping America’s communities safe.”

The legislation allows investment in officer safety, de-escalation, and domestic violence response training; provides grants for small departments to recruit new officers and invest in officers pursuing graduate degrees in public health, social work and mental health; provides critical resources for police departments to provide mental health resources for their officers.

A majority of the U.S. House also voted to pass the following:

The Mental Health Justice Act would create a grant program to pay for hiring, training, salary, benefits and additional expenses for mental health provider first responder units.

The Break the Cycle of Violence Act would provide federal grants to communities for evidence-informed community violence intervention and prevention programs designed to interrupt cycles of violence.

The VICTIM Act would establish a U.S. Department of Justice grant program to hire, train and retain detectives and victim services personnel to investigate shootings and support victims.

Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia voted for the legislation. According to a press release, 94 percent of American police departments have fewer than 100 sworn officers. Most are smaller than 250 full-time sworn officers.

“Our police officers and public safety officials keep our communities safe,” Luria said in the press release. “The Invest to Protect Act provides police departments with the funding, training and equipment they need to do their jobs and continue protecting us. I am proud to support this bipartisan legislation today that invests in our police officers and keeps our communities safe.”

Virginia’s Rep. Rob Wittman also voted in support of the legislation.

“Our law enforcement officers represent selfless and exceptional dedication to serving their communities and neighbors,” Wittman said. “We in Congress must work to ensure they have proper and sufficient tools, resources, and training to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Our nation is facing an ongoing crime crisis, and we must be thoughtful about the need to recruit and train brave men and women who are willing to risk their safety in order to keep our communities safe. America is stronger because of our brave men and women in law enforcement, and I will always work to ensure they have the tools they need to be successful.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.