During National Police Week, Tester Fights for Montana Law Enforcement
Senator marks week with continued support for first responders
(U.S. Senate) - U.S. Senator Jon Tester is honoring Montana's law enforcement officers during National Police Week, and fighting to ensure Big Sky Country's first responders receive the resources, benefits, and support they deserve.
"Montana's uniformed officers put their lives on the line every day to protect us," Tester said. "This week, and every week, we thank them for the sacrifices they make to keep our communities and families safe. But more than our gratitude, our officers need the right tools and resources to do their jobs safely and effectively-and it's our job to ensure they're equipped to do it."
Tester continued: "This year alone, we've had multiple Montana officers injured in the line of duty. We have a responsibility to ensure that brave men and women like Trooper Wade Palmer and Deputy Brian Pearson get the care and benefits they need so they and their families only have to worry about getting better. Their service kept Montanans safe, now it is time for us to repay the favor."
Tester recently introduced a Senate Resolution designating May 12-18 as National Police Week, to honor the 158 officers killed in the line of duty in 2018, and express support for law enforcement officers across the country United States.
"We honor and care for the families of our fallen officers and we work to make sure that their service, memory and sacrifice is not forgotten," said Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police. "Too often, however, the law enforcement officers who suffer terrible injuries in the line of duty are left permanently disabled and forgotten. We need to do more to help those who are permanently disabled in the line of duty and we're grateful for Senator Tester's support for S. 1268, the Putting First Responders First Act."
Tester is also pushing legislation and fighting for funding to ensure Montana's law enforcement officers have the resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.
Tester introduced and cosponsored a number of bills to honor the sacrifices made by Montana's men and women in blue and provide them with benefits and support they deserve. These bills include:
- Protecting America's First Responders Act - This legislation, which Tester is pushing the Senate to pass today, ensures first responders injured in the line of duty and the families of fallen officers receive the benefits they've earned by fixing the current issues with disability determinations for the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program, and ensuring that claims are processed more quickly.
- Putting First Responders First Act - This bill would clarify the tax code to ensure injured first responders do not have to pay taxes on injury-related compensation. It would also prevent benefits from becoming taxable when first responders reach retirement age.
- First Responders Fair Return for Employees on Their Initial Retirement Earned (RETIRE) Act - This legislation would ensure first responders receive their full retirement benefits if they are injured in the line of duty and return to federal service in another position.
- National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act - This bill directs the U.S. Treasury to mint a coin in 2021 to commemorate the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C. Profits from the sale of the coin will support the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund for educational and outreach programs and exhibits at the museum.
- Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization - This legislation, which passed the Senate on Tuesday night, will help state and local law enforcement agencies purchase lifesaving bulletproof vests for officers working in the field.
As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester is also fighting to fund programs that provide officers with the resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively. These programs include:
- Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program - The President's proposed budget slashes funding for the COPS Hiring Program from $400 million to just $99 million. As a result, Tester is urging his colleagues to reject the President's draconian budget cuts and fully fund the program, which provides grants to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to help them hire more officers. He is also fighting to keep the COPS Office an independent office at the Department of Justice so that Congress doesn't put more bureaucracy between law enforcement and the resources they need.
- Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistances Grant (Byrne JAG) Program - The President's budget also cuts the Byrne JAG program, which provides flexible funding to states and localities to help support law enforcement programs, prosecution and court programs, prevention and education efforts, community corrections programs, drug treatment programs, technology improvements, and crime victims programs. So, Tester is asking his colleagues to support level funding for Byrne JAG in the FY20 appropriations process.
- Regional Information Sharing System (RISS) Program - The President's budget proposal slashes more than 25 percent of the RISS program's budget, funding it at $27 million. In response, Tester is urging his colleagues to fully fund the program and asking them to place a cap on administration fees so that more money actually goes to help officers get the information they need. RISS is used for information sharing, officer safety de-confliction, and investigation support for state, local, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies.
- High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program - The President's proposed budget would eliminate $36 million in funding for HIDTA and move the program under the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Agency, a move that could place the five HIDTA taskforces in Montana at risk. In response, Tester is demanding his colleagues to keep HIDTA under the Office of National Drug Control Policy and maintain funding for the program, which coordinates federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in designated areas, enabling them to effectively dismantle drug trafficking organizations and reduce drug-related crime.