Tester Leads Bipartisan Bill to Hire More Law Enforcement Officers in Montana

Senator’s Recruit and Retain Act helps boost hiring, creates schools-to-law enforcement pipeline;

Bill is supported by Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs Association, National Association of Police Organizations, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association

As a part of his continued push to hire more law enforcement officers and keep Montana communities safe, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced his support for the bipartisan Recruit and Retain Act, which will boost hiring by expanding grant programs to recruit and retain officers in understaffed departments.

“Keeping Montana safe is my top priority and I am proud to be working alongside our law enforcement leaders to ensure they’ve got the officers they need to get the job done,” said Tester. “Montana’s police forces play a key role in preventing violent crimes and drug trafficking, and it’s our job in Washington to make sure they have necessary manpower and resources to do their jobs safely. I’ll always stand with Montana’s law enforcement community, and we’ll work together to get this bipartisan bill signed into law.”

Tester’s bipartisan bill would create a schools-to-law enforcement recruitment program, expand funding from COPS Hiring Grants, and improve law enforcement recruitment. The bill specifically expands recruitment and retention grants by:

  • Authorizing $3 million to create the new Pipeline Recruitment Program to allow agencies and educational institutions, including high schools, universities, and Tribal colleges, to collaborate and strengthen local pipelines for students interested in law enforcement careers. Qualifying activities include dedicated programming for students, work-based learning opportunities, project-based learning, mentoring, community liaisons, career or job fairs, worksite visits, job shadowing, and skills-based internships.
  • Expanding COPS grants to support onboarding cost, such as background checks, psychological evaluations, and additional testing for applicants.
  • Assisting agencies in hiring by allowing 2% of grants to cover administrative costs.
  • Requiring DOJ to update and clarify guidelines for COPS Hiring Program grants to help ensure that understaffed police departments are able to apply.
  • Requiring a study to understand the effects of recruitment and retention on federal, state, Tribal and local law enforcement agencies.

“Police officers in Montana put their lives on the line every day to keep folks safe. However, law enforcement agencies from Butte to Glendive are struggling to recruit and retain officers,” said Butte Silver Bow Sheriff Ed Lester. “We thank Senator Tester for understanding the needs of our local law enforcement agencies across Montana and for supporting legislation that will make it easier for agencies to train and hire new officers.” 

“Law enforcement agencies across Montana are having a hard time recruiting new officers and maintaining a fully staffed police force, making it harder for them to keep their communities safe,” said Billings Police Chief, Rich St. John. “This bipartisan legislation will help Montana law enforcement agencies recruit the best and brightest, make it easier for understaffed and smaller department access federal funds to hire new officers, and help build better connections with the folks we protect.  We appreciate Senator Tester for supporting this important legislation and continuing to invest in Montana law enforcement.”

Tester’s bipartisan bill is also supported by the Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs Association, National Association of Police Organizations, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

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.