Hiring More Law Enforcement in Montana’s Small Communities Aim of Tester’s Bipartisan Bill

Senator’s Invest to Protect Act will create a new COPS grant program for police departments with under 200 full-time officers

Continuing his efforts to hire more law enforcement officers and keep Montana communities safe, U.S. Senator Jon Tester last week re-introduced his bipartisan Invest to Protect Act which will create a special COPS grant to support hiring and resources for local law enforcement agencies with under 200 officers.

Tester was joined by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and twelve additional bipartisan colleagues in introducing the legislation.

“Montanans in every corner of our state have a right to feel safe, and that starts with ensuring rural communities have the resources they need to hire and retain law enforcement officers,” said Tester. “That’s why I’m proud to team up with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure our small law enforcement agencies have access to the resources they need. Supporting our brave men and women in law enforcement is just common sense, and I’ll keep pushing until this bipartisan bill is signed into law.”

Tester’s bipartisan Invest to Protect Act would establish a grant through the COPS program specifically to help small law enforcement agencies, including Tribal law enforcement agencies, fund needs like training, equipment, mental health support, and recruitment and retention. The legislation also requires that the grant application process can be completed within 30 minutes, so that small agencies without dedicated grant-writing staff can better access the funding.

The bill would allow grant funding to be used for a wide variety of purposes, including:

  • Officer safety, de-escalation, and domestic violence training, as well as funding to offset overtime pay when officers are in training.
  • Purchasing body-worn cameras, while also funding data storage and security for the footage. The program would assist small departments with privacy and storage standards by providing DOJ-created best practices that can be used in the absence of existing guidance from their local governments. 
  • Efforts to recruit new officers, retain existing officers, and fund officers’ tuition for graduate studies in mental health, public health, and social work up to $10,000.
  • Evidence-based mental health services and resources for officers.

Tester has led the charge to recruit and retain law enforcement officers and keep Montana communities safe.

In March, Tester announced his support for the bipartisan Recruit and Retain Act, which will boost hiring and retention efforts for Montana law enforcement in understaffed departments across the state. Tester’s bill would create a schools-to-law enforcement recruitment program, expand funding from COPS Hiring Grants, and improve law enforcement recruitment. 

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester is a tireless advocate for increasing funding for police and making sure all Montana law enforcement officers have the resources they need to keep communities safe. He recently secured more than $1 billion in critical funding for Tribal, local, state, and federal law enforcement and public safety programs in the 2023 government funding bill, including $662 million for the COPS program – a $50 million increase over FY22. Tester was the only member of the Montana delegation to support the bill.