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The package would provide new federal dollars for hiring officers, as well as violence prevention initiatives and job training.
House Democrats reached a deal Wednesday on a package of policing bills, including a funding increase centrist lawmakers wanted to help smaller communities hire and retain more officers.
The slate of legislation also incorporates bills progressives sought that would fund community development grants for disadvantaged areas, and that would provide money to support police department investigations of unsolved murders that particularly affect poor and minority neighborhoods.
With this year’s midterm elections approaching in less than two months, increasing law enforcement funding was considered important politically to Democrats facing attacks from Republicans for rising crime rates.
Progressives and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who unsuccessfully pushed last year for tightened police accountability measures, following the 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, were unwilling to go along with only raising funding to hire more officers.
Last week, the president of the nation’s largest police union said that the police funding talks were at an impasse. But now the two blocs of Democrats have reached a broader agreement.
Instead of only funding more police, the package includes “reforms to ensure funds are used to support smaller police departments to invest in de-escalation and other important training, data collection, and mental health,” said a statement from leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including Rep. Pramila Jayapal, of Washington and Rep. Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota.
Part of the package is the Invest to Protect Act, pushed by Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat, which would help small police departments cover the cost of activities like buying body cameras, providing training and improving recruitment and retention.
Also included is the Break the Cycle of Violence Act, which would offer $5 billion in Department of Health and Human Services grants over eight years to community-based organizations and local governments for counseling gunshot victims and other violence intervention programs.
That bill, sponsored by Rep. Steven Horsford, a Nevada Democrat, would also include $1.5 billion in youth job training and education grants from the Labor Department for local governments with communities hard hit by violence.
The Violent Incident Clearance and Technological Investigative Methods, or VICTIM, Act is part of the package as well. It would establish Justice Department grants for state, tribal and local governments to hire and train more detectives.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said during a Rules Committee hearing Wednesday that only half of murder cases last year were solved, disproportionately denying justice in poor and minority communities.
Additionally, the package includes the Mental Health Justice Act, sponsored by Rep. Katie Porter, a California Democrat. It would create a grant program to hire and train mental health professionals for first responder units.
Rep. Tom Tiffany, a Wisconsin Republican, mocked the package during the Rules Committee hearing as an attempt by Democrats to “paper over their calls to defund the police.”
Gottheimer downplayed any political motives, telling reporters that he pushed for the legislation because “we need to invest in law enforcement, strengthen law enforcement. Make sure they have what they need to protect themselves in our communities.”
Kery Murakami is a senior reporter for Route Fifty.
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