Culpeper Star-Exponent: Bipartisan COPS bill increases community policing grants to $1.04 billion annually

CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT

he Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) on the Beat Program was recently reintroduced in Congress seeking to increase police officer pay and assist local departments with the hiring of additional officers.

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, with sponsor New York Republican Nick LaLota, initially introduced the bipartisan legislation two years ago.

Part of the Justice Department, the COPS Office advances the practice of community policing through information and grant resources. Since 1994, the office has invested more than $14 billion to help advance community policing, according to a Jan. 12 release from Spanberger’s office.

Her measure would continue the COPS on the Beat Program for the next 10 years, expand grants in rural areas and allow those funds to be used for raises for police working in low-income communities.

The COPS on the Beat grant program was previously appropriated $633 million in FY23; this legislation, due to high demand, would increase funding to $1.047 billion annually from fiscal year 2025 to fiscal year 2034, the release stated.

“For years, I’ve heard directly from Virginia’s police chiefs and sheriffs who are finding it hard to recruit, retain and train qualified officers and deputies. Reauthorizing and strengthening the COPS program would help address these concerns directly,” said Spanberger.

“As a former federal law enforcement officer, I know that community policing initiatives help build stronger, safer communities. I’m proud to once again help lead this straightforward, bipartisan legislation to help our local law enforcement officers access the resources, build the relationships and gain the training they need to keep Virginians safe.”

LaLota said, as a dedicated advocate for public safety, community well-being and the men and women in blue, he is proud to support the measure to reauthorize the COPS on Beat Grants Program.

“Our legislation reflects a commitment to fostering stronger relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve and to public safety,” he said. “By providing crucial resources and support through the COPS program, we empower our officers to proactively engage with residents, address local concerns, serve and protect the people and build trust.”

The U.S. Senate companion was introduced earlier this year by Sens. Lindsay Graham, R-SC, and Amy Klobuchar, D-MN.

Bill supporters include the Major County Sheriffs of America, Fraternal Order of Police, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs Association and New York Police Department’s Sergeants Benevolent Association.

The COPS on the Beat Program reauthorization would require a report at the mid-point of the program with conclusions to determine: how representative law enforcement agencies are of their communities; the percentage of those employed by police and sheriff departments that live in the jurisdiction served; average officer pay in police and sheriff departments compared to the cost of living of their jurisdiction; and legislative and administrative recommendations for improving these metrics.

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