Reps. Carbajal and Bacon Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Reduce Law Enforcement Staffing Shortages, Strengthen Vetting of Recruits

Coinciding with National Police Week, lawmakers announced their bill in front of the U.S. Capitol, emphasized its potential to reduce law enforcement staffing shortages by double federal grant dollars available to support hiring at local police departments

Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24) and Congressman Don Bacon (NE-02) were joined by members of the nation’s top law enforcement groups to mark National Police Week and highlight their introduction of bipartisan legislation aimed at helping local police departments mitigate staffing shortages.

The Filling Public Safety Vacancies Act provides an emergency boost to the federal grant program that provides funding to departments for the purposes of recruitment and hiring. 

With an infusion of an additional $162 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program, the bill would double the amount of federal grant funding available for local departments this fiscal year.

The bipartisan bill also establishes a new vetting requirement for officers hired using the supplemental funding provided in the bill, creating the first-ever statutory requirement for background checks and mental health evaluations. Currently, federal law does not require agencies to perform background checks on new recruits through the COPS Hiring Program.

The text of the Filling Public Safety Vacancies Act can be found here.

“Law enforcement officials keep our families, neighborhoods, and communities safe. While our departments are stepping up to combat crime, gun violence, the opioid epidemic, and natural disasters, they should not have to worry about not having the resources they need to recruit, vet, and hire the officers they need on the beat,” said Congressman Carbajal. “Recent years have brought shortfalls in staffing at departments across the country and in my home on the Central Coast. The Filling Public Safety Vacancies Act is a bipartisan recognition that our departments need more help from the federal government after years of declining hiring and staff shortages.” 

“I am happy to colead the Filling Public Safety Vacancies Act with my colleague Rep. Carbajal, said Rep. Bacon.” “This legislation will fund and assist with hiring law enforcement officers under the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. Our law enforcement officers are vital to the safety and security of our communities, we must support them as they continue to do their duties and protect us all.”

The bill has the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police, Major County Sheriffs of America, California Police Chiefs Association, and the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), California’s largest law enforcement organization.

“I applaud Congressman Carbajal for introducing the Filling Public Safety Vacancies Act,” said Major County Sheriffs of America President, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown. “This legislation comes at a critical time when many county and city budgets across our nation are constrained, and when law enforcement agencies continue to struggle in recruiting sufficient numbers of men and women to fill their ranks. Not only will this legislation infuse additional grant funding into the COPS Hiring Program, but it will also require those hired as a result of it to be properly screened and qualified in order to protect and serve others in communities across the country.”

“Policing staff shortages are a nationwide problem and law enforcement agencies are struggling to retain good veteran officers and to find the best and brightest candidates to protect their communities,” said Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police. This legislation provides a needed one-time boost of $162 million for the hiring program administered by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). The additional funds can be used to hire or rehire law enforcement officers as well as pay for the required background checks and psychological examinations.  We are grateful to have Representatives Carbajal and Bacon lead this important effort.”

“As someone who has served on the frontlines for two decades, I've witnessed firsthand the strain that staffing shortages place on our communities and departments – which is why it is so important that we invest in additional resources to fill key law enforcement vacancies,” said Jared Wilson, President of the San Diego Police Officers Association and Board Member of the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC). “The Filling Public Safety Vacancies Act is a lifeline for agencies. By providing much-needed funding for recruitment efforts, we can work towards ensuring that those who join the police force are well-suited for the role, ultimately continuing to build the trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve. PORAC is proud to support this bill, and sincerely thanks Congressman Carbajal for his leadership in addressing law enforcement staffing shortages and fostering a safer environment for all.”

The bipartisan bill has a Senate companion led by Senators Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

According to a 2023 Department of Justice report, local police departments reported a 50% rise in resignations and a 20% rise in retirements in 2022 compared to 2019.

California saw a similar trend, with more than 3,500 officers and 1,000 civilian staff leaving police departments between 2020 and 2022 – bringing the number of patrol officers per capita to its lowest level in California since 1994.

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