Following Discussions with Montana Law Enforcement, Tester Presses Biden Department of Justice to Better Fund Rural Law Enforcement & Address Public Safety Concerns

Tester to DOJ after Flathead law enforcement roundtable: “I urge the DOJ to do everything it can to ensure they have the funding and tools they need to do their job.”

Following a recent roundtable discussion in Kalispell, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today took concerns from Flathead law enforcement officials directly to the Biden Administration in a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ), urging officials to do more to fund rural law enforcement and cut burdensome red tape to address public safety concerns. 

During the meeting, Tester heard from local law enforcement about the challenges they face in their communities and the tools they need to boost crime prevention, tackle the fentanyl epidemic, and cut back the unnecessary red tape that prevents their use of COPS Hiring and other federal grants.

“Smaller law enforcement agencies and those in rural areas face unique challenges as they work hard every day on the critically important mission of keeping communities safe.  I believe the DOJ must do more to cut unnecessary red tape that is making it too difficult for smaller departments to access federal resources,” wrote Tester to Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

Tester specifically noted his recent roundtable with local law enforcement where he discussed crime prevention, fentanyl trafficking, and border security efforts: “I recently sat down with law enforcement officials from northwest Montana to discuss the public safety issues facing our state. Like most law enforcement agencies, these folks are facing tightening budgets, chronic understaffing, and a growing fentanyl epidemic.” 

In particular, Tester highlighted the unnecessary red tape that has prevented rural law enforcement from utilizing the COPS Hiring Program: “They specifically raised concerns about the difficulty of participating in the COPS Hiring Program. This program is meant to provide funding directly to state and local law enforcement agencies to help them hire more officers. However, because it requires a lengthy and technical application that can take months to complete and comes with overburdensome reporting requirements, some departments are opting not to apply at all.”

Tester concluded the letter by calling on DOJ to do more to support rural law enforcement: “Across Montana and in rural America, our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to keep their communities safe. I urge the DOJ to do everything it can to ensure they have the funding and tools they need to do their job.”

Last year, Tester backed bipartisan legislation that would create a new dedicated COPS grant program with a streamlined application process for local and Tribal law enforcement agencies under 200 officers. Tester’s Invest to Protect Act would establish a grant through the COPS program specifically to help small law enforcement agencies fund needs like training, equipment, mental health support, and recruitment and retention. It also requires that the application process for these grants can be completed within 30 minutes so that small agencies without dedicated grant-writing staff can access the funding.

Through his role as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester has also championed local law enforcement and fought to ensure they have resources they need to keep communities safe. He recently secured significant wins for Montana’s law enforcement community in the annual government funding bill including: funding to hire and equip new officers and language instructing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to allocate the maximum amount of resources to support efforts to combat fentanyl.

Tester has also led the charge to secure the southern border and stop the deadly flow of fentanyl that is wreaking havoc on Montana. Tester voted to secure the southern border in February – but politicians in Congress blocked the bipartisan border security legislation.

Last month, as part of his continued efforts to secure America’s borders and combat the deadly flow of fentanyl into Montana, Senator Tester successfully included his bipartisan Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act as part of a critical national security package that passed the U.S. Senate. His bipartisan legislation would impose economic sanctions on those engaged in the international trafficking of illicit fentanyl, precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl, or other related opioids, and declare international trafficking of fentanyl as a national emergency. Tester has also called on Congress to fully fund technology used to scan for fentanyl and other contraband at the southern border as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 Homeland Security Appropriations bill after Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Troy Miller said that scanners used to spot smuggled fentanyl at the southern border are currently sitting unused in warehouses without the funding needed to install them.

Tester’s full letter to DOJ can be read HERE.