U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrea Beutler, R-Battle Ground, introduced legislation this week addressing staffing shortages among police departments in Southwest Washington and the country more broadly.
“The Pathways to Policing Act” would support programs assisting law enforcement agencies by increasing the “pipeline of service-oriented individuals.” Her statement said the legislation was part of ensuring “agencies have the resources they need to protect communities and keep officers safe.”
According to Herrera Beutler, the bill would give $50 million to the Department of Justice to conduct nationwide recruitment campaigns as well as another $50 million to create “Pathways to Policing” campaigns. The statement claims 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,” Herrera Beutler said in her statement. “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.”
The statement also included quotes from local law enforcement leaders, including Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain.
“Staffing continues to be a critical issue for law enforcement agencies throughout the country. We are certainly experiencing this in Southwest Washington,” McElvain said. “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.”
Steven Strachan, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, also backed the proposal.
“Sheriff and police chiefs support funding opportunities for local programs to encourage careers in law enforcement,” Strachan said. “Washington state ranks 51st in the nation and D.C. 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.”
Cosponsors of Herrera Beutler’s bill include a bipartisan group of congressmen and women, ranging from Democrats from Minnesota, Iowa and Hawaii to Republicans from Michigan, Nebraska and California.
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