Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03) this week introduced bipartisan legislation to address police staffing shortages in Southwest Washington and across the country.
The Pathways to Policing Act invests in programs to help state and local law enforcement agencies struggling to maintain adequate staffing levels. While the root cause of the nationwide officer shortage is multifaceted, bolstering the pipeline of service-oriented individuals is one way to ensure agencies have the resources they need to protect communities and keep officers safe.
This legislation will provide $50 million to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to operate nationwide recruitment campaigns, and an additional $50 million to create and operate “Pathways to Policing” programs supported by local and statewide marketing and recruiting efforts. These campaigns will encourage members of communities traditionally underrepresented in the field of law enforcement or who have non-traditional educational or career backgrounds to seek employment in law enforcement.
“With crime on the rise, having a well-trained and robust police force to protect our communities is more important than ever. However, nearly every sheriff’s office and police department will tell you that staffing is one of their biggest challenges. The Pathways to Policing Act would provide education and training opportunities to address this hiring need head-on and would make sure we have more qualified men and women in law enforcement to keep our streets safe,” Herrera Beutler said.
“Staffing continues to be a critical issue for law enforcement agencies throughout the country; we are certainly experiencing this in Southwest Washington. We believe this bill is very timely because it is critical to addressing recruitment efforts to increase applications for law enforcement by candidates from traditionally underrepresented communities. This bill supports those who have non-traditional educational or career backgrounds that possess the complimentary skills needed in law enforcement, as well as recruiting candidates who want to serve their local community,” Vancouver Chief of Police James McElvain said.
I support any assistance that may be provided to hire and retain additional deputies for my Office. Washington State ranks 51st out of the 50 states and Washington D.C. in the per capita number of Officers serving the citizens of our state. Coupled with police reform measures that have restricted our authority and the defund the police movement I feel it is important for Congress to take a stand and help staff and equip the next generation of Law Enforcement Officers,” Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman said.
“This bill is coming at an important time and we believe it will assist smaller agencies with recruiting and hiring,” Washougal Chief of Police Wendi Steinbronn said.
“Sheriff and Police Chiefs support funding opportunities for local programs to encourage careers in law enforcement. Washington state ranks 51st in the nation and DC in the per capita rate of officers. We need to inspire people to go into law enforcement as a career and to retain those men and women who put their lives on the line for their communities every day,” Executive Director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, Steven Strachan said.
Original cosponsors of the bill include Reps. Dean Phillips (D-MN), Peter Meijer (R-MI), Angie Craig (D-MN), Cindy Axne (D-IA), Don Bacon (R-NE), Ed Case (D-HI), María Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), and David Valadao (R-CA).