WASHINGTON, D.C. (WRIC) — Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia is pushing U.S. House leaders on both sides to bring her bipartisan bill to help increase pay for law enforcement and bolster the hiring of officers for a floor vote “as soon as possible.”
In January, Rep. Spanberger and Republican Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina introduced the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) on the Beat Program Reauthorization and Parity Act.
The bill would significantly increase funding to advance community policing, expand access to federal grants for local police departments in rural areas and to increase wages for officers in low-income communities. But the legislation has yet to move to the U.S. House floor for a vote.
Spanberger, a moderate Democrat seeking a third term, has supported increasing police officers’ salaries and was opposed to Democrats getting behind calls to take funding from law enforcement departments.
Spanberger and Rice sent a letter Monday to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), and U.S. House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) calling for the bill to be brought for floor vote “as soon as possible.”
“Police departments cannot effectively answer the immense and diverse needs of their communities without sufficient funding,” they wrote. “Therefore, we must urgently vote to increase funding for local departments and strengthen federal efforts on community-oriented policing.”
The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), a component of the Department of Justice, awards federal grants to local departments to hire policing professionals, develop and test strategies and provide training and assistance to communities.
The legislation would create a stand-alone COPS office within the Department of Justice, reauthorize its services on the Beat Grant Program for next 10 years, increase access to grants in rural communities and allow for the federal program to be used to raise wages for officers working in “low-income communities.”
The National Fraternal Order of Police, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association and more national law enforcement groups have come out in support of the bill.
“We cannot continue to merely talk about the need for improving law enforcement relations, budgets, and trainings – we must deliver on those calls with thoughtful and targeted solutions, such as the bipartisan COPS on the Beat Grant Program Reauthorization and Parity Act of 2022 (H.R. 6375),” Spanberger and Rice wrote. “The U.S. House of Representatives must affirm our commitment to safe communities and common-sense solutions to nationwide challenges with action on this bipartisan bill.”
Spanberger is running for a third term in this year’s midterms in a newly-drawn 7th District that moved north and no longer includes the western Henrico and Chesterfield suburbs that helped her win office in 2018 and 2020.
She was highly critical of her party’s approach leading up to 2020, describing the congressional election results as “a failure” the day after she declared victory over Republican challenger Nick Freitas.
In a private caucus call after the 2020 elections, she said that Democrats lost members who they shouldn’t have lost.
“The number one concern and thing that people brought to me in my district, that I barely re-won, was defunding the police. And I heard from colleagues who have said ‘oh, it’s the language of the street, we should respect that,’ Spanberger said on the call. “We’re in Congress. We are professionals. We are supposed to talk about things in the way where we mean what we’re talking about. If we don’t mean we should defund the police, we shouldn’t say that.”