How Congress can better support law enforcement

As a member of Congress on the House Judiciary Committee, I am aware of and concerned by the serious challenges facing our nation’s law enforcement officers. And as a former sheriff, I have a unique perspective on these challenges and an understanding of what needs to be done at the federal level to best support law enforcement.

Following National Police Week, it should go without saying that law enforcement remains a tough but essential job. Last year alone, 136 law enforcement officers at the local, state, and federal levels tragically died in the line of duty. We’re also seeing early retirements and resignations among law enforcement officers across the country, as well as the real problems law enforcement agencies face when it comes to recruitment. 

A recent study by the Police Executive Research Forum found that 65% of agencies polled reported an increase in retirements between 2020 and 2022, and 66% noted a rise in resignations. That same PERF study found that between 2020 and 2022, 69% of agencies saw a drop in the number of applications for full-time officer positions, which is detrimental to the safety of our nation.

Thankfully, PERF identified several ways to reverse this trend and best support law enforcement at all levels, including improving and expanding officer safety and wellness programs and building community support for law enforcement. Fortunately, outstanding programs exist that have a proven track record when it comes to offering this support. 

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, in particular, was created by an act of Congress in 1984 to honor and support the law enforcement community. It is the only national law enforcement organization created by Congress and was built with private dollars.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has a track record of over 30 years developing and delivering high-quality programming that saves police lives and engages the public in a positive and effective fashion. These programs are making a difference but have been limited in scope because of funding restraints.

That’s why I introduced H.R. 3381, the National Law Enforcement Officers Remembrance, Support, and Community Outreach Act. This bipartisan bill, which now has more than 150 co-sponsors, would establish within the Department of Justice a program to support and enhance the community outreach, public education, and officer safety and wellness programs of the NLEOMF. 

These include programs to memorialize law enforcement heroes who lost their lives in the line of duty and compile statistics on law enforcement fatalities and injuries, increase the public’s understanding of and support for law enforcement, educate the public about the vital importance of law enforcement in a democratic society, provide local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies with critical information on best practices to reduce the number of line of duty deaths and injuries, and promote officer safety and wellness, as well as community-based engagement and interventions.

The vital and important long-standing mission of NLEOMF complements and comes alongside the mission of the Justice Department. For years, Congress has recognized the vital importance of the NLEOMF when it comes to backing the blue nationwide. My legislation is a logical next step for Congress to take to ensure that NLEOMF’s congressionally mandated mission not only continues but that it has the resources to expand and enhance these important programs, particularly as law enforcement organizations are facing the greatest challenges I’ve seen in my lifetime.

My bill would not add to the federal deficit. Instead, it would be funded by diverting a small portion of the tens of millions of dollars that the DOJ awards every year for community-based initiatives to this vital program. This commonsense bill would ensure that DOJ dollars spent on community initiatives go toward proven programs that save police lives and bring police closer to the communities they serve.

It is my sincere hope that this bipartisan bill will move forward in this Congress and get signed into law as soon as possible. I will always back the blue.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

Troy Nehls is a representative from Texas and serves on the House Judiciary Committee.

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