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Some N.J. PDs could get up to $50M annually from ‘Invest to Protect Act’

The proposed bill would make the money available to departments with fewer than 200 sworn officers for safety, training and recruitment

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Instructors do a final insepcation on the new officers during Gloucester County Police Academy s 61st Graduation Ceremony at Rowan College of South Jersey Gloucester Campus, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022.

Joe Warner

By S.P. Sullivan
nj.com

FORT LEE, N.J. — New Jersey police departments in small cities and towns would get an infusion of federal funds for mental health care, training and recruiting under a bill before Congress.

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer said Friday the “Invest to Protect Act,” which applies to police departments nationally with fewer than 200 sworn officers, would benefit a majority of departments in the Garden State.

Under the proposal, up to $50 million a year in federal dollars will go to small and medium-sized department for an array of needs, from grants for recruiting to training in “officer safety, de-escalation, and domestic violence response.”

Flanked by law enforcement and local officials during a Fort Lee press conference, Gottheimer, D-5th Dist., said amid post-pandemic surges in auto thefts, hate crimes and other categories, more investment in policing was warranted.

“I’ll tell you this: You won’t make our communities safer by slashing budgets and defunding departments,” Gottheimer said.

“That won’t stop the violent criminals, gang members and terrorists, it won’t stop the robberies and car thefts, or help us fight hate crimes and shoplifters.”

The centrist Democrat was a vocal critic of the “defund the police” movement that arose during social justice protests in recent years. But New Jersey has not seen a significant effort to reduce funding for municipal police departments and its political leaders, mostly Democrats, have not endorsed the effort.

Still, Gottheimer said a rise in police resignations and retirements, coupled with rising reports of post-traumatic stress among cops, called for action in Washington.

“This bill will help recruit and retain the good cops, which will lead to stronger, safer communities,” he said.

The congressman’s office said the measure would be formally introduced in the House in the coming days.

“Now, does the bill cover everything? No, of course not,” Gottheimer said. “Are these critical steps to make much needed investment in our local police and our local communities? Yes, absolutely.”

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