Tester Backs Legislation to Increase Funding for Montana Law Enforcement

Senator’s Invest to Protect Act would create simplified grant program for local law enforcement agencies with under 200 officers

As a part of his ongoing effort to support Montana’s law enforcement agencies, U.S. Senator Jon Tester last week signed on to the bipartisan Invest to Protect Act, which would create a new dedicated Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant program with a streamlined application process for local and Tribal law enforcement agencies under 200 officers.

“Across Montana and rural America, we rely on law enforcement agencies with a small number of officers to cover large areas and keep folks safe.” Tester said. “These officers go above and beyond the call of duty every day. It’s critical that smaller agencies have access to proper funding without unnecessary red tape.”

The Tester-backed 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. 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. The bill limits eligibility to local and Tribal law enforcement agencies with fewer than 200 sworn officers, and would authorize the use of $50 million per year for five years from the COPS grant program.

The legislation 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 Department of Justice 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.
  • Evidence-based mental health services and resources for officers.

Tester’s legislation is supported by the Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs Association, National Association of Police Organizations, National Criminal Justice Association, National Leagues of Cities, and National Associations of Counties.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester is a tireless advocate for Montana law enforcement. He recently secured more than $1 billion in critical funding for local, state, and federal law enforcement and public safety programs in the 2022 bipartisan “omnibus” funding package. Tester was the only member of the Montana delegation to support the bill, which included $512 million for COPS programs, a $126 million increase over last year.

Additionally, he is pushing for increased funding for Montana law enforcement in his bipartisan Assisting Narcotics and Trafficking Officers in Interdicting (ANTI) Drugs Act to combat drug trafficking.