Sens. Ossoff, Blackburn Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Fill Law Enforcement Vacancies and Strengthen Vetting of Recruits

Many law enforcement agencies across Georgia are facing severe staffing shortages

Bipartisan bill boosts funding for law enforcement agencies to fill vacancies

Bill also strengthens vetting of newly hired law enforcement officers

Sheriffs and Police Chiefs across Georgia endorse Sen. Ossoff’s bipartisan bill

Washington, D.C. — Following meetings with community leaders and law enforcement professionals across Georgia, U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff is introducing a bipartisan bill to help fill law enforcement vacancies and protect communities from violence.

Sens. Ossoff and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today introduced the bipartisan Filling Public Safety Vacancies Act to help law enforcement agencies reduce staffing shortages and effectively protect communities.

According to WSB-TV, several metro Atlanta law enforcement agencies are facing severe staffing shortages, and WALB Albany has reported the Albany Police Department is 30-40% understaffed — a challenge common in communities across Georgia.

The bipartisan bill would provide a one-time emergency boost in funding through the COPS Hiring Program for the hiring or rehiring of police officers and sheriffs’ deputies, helping agencies fill key vacancies.

The bipartisan bill also establishes a new vetting requirement for officers hired using the supplemental funding provided in the bill, ensuring that they undergo background checks and mental health evaluations. Currently, Federal law does not require agencies to perform background checks on new recruits through the COPS Hiring Program.

“Georgia communities face serious public safety staffing shortfalls. My bipartisan bill will help communities hire and retain officers while ensuring newly hired officers undergo rigorous vetting and background checks unprecedented in federal law,” Sen. Ossoff said.

“The men and women in blue who dutifully protect and serve our communities need our support,” said Senator Blackburn. “In Tennessee and across our nation, I have heard from several community sheriffs who are low on the manpower and resources needed to thoroughly do their jobs. This bipartisan legislation with Senator Ossoff takes a critical step toward strengthening hiring and bolstering our law enforcement community.”

Sen. Ossoff’s bipartisan bill is backed by Sheriffs, Police Chiefs, and public safety organizations across Georgia and nationwide, including the National Sheriffs’ Association and Fraternal Order of Police (FOP):

“As we adjust and adapt to the dynamic demands placed on the law enforcement profession, recruiting and retaining deputies who are able to serve beyond the walls of the jail will be critical to our success,” said Fulton County Sheriff Patrick ‘Pat’ Labat. “Making sure those who are sworn to protect and serve are fully equipped to meet the needs of our community remains one of my top priorities. The bipartisan Filling Public Safety Vacancies Act introduced by U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff will provide vital support toward accomplishing that mission.”

“I am pleased to support Senator Ossoff’s bill to help law enforcement officers around the state, the Filling Public Safety Vacancies Act,” Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman said.“The appropriated funding enables law enforcement agencies the ability to hire professional law enforcement officers. Recruitment is very competitive. Many law enforcement agencies are hamstrung with budgetary constraints therefore, causing them not to be able to hire and meet the needs of those they sworn to serve and protect. The Filling Public Safety Vacancies Act will open doors of employment for many agencies in direct need of this critical funding.”

“I am proud to support this effort by Senators Ossoff and Blackburn to allocate Federal funds to assist local law enforcement in hiring additional officers,” said Bibb County Sheriff David J. Davis. “It important to know that this legislation includes funds to hire newcomers to law enforcement. But more importantly, it assists agencies to re hire individuals who may have left the law enforcement profession in the past few years. As leader of one of the largest local law enforcement agencies in Georgia, it is essential for me to be able to hire capable and professional deputies. This proposal will help achieve that goal. It is good to see these Senators are thinking about those who protect our counties and cities.”

“This funding can assist agencies whose budgets are limited on hiring and retaining personnel. Law enforcement agencies at all levels will need to evaluate how they will provide services moving forward which can include the rehiring of officers for positions that don’t require sworn personnel to occupy,” Albany Police Chief Michael J. Persley said. “Sen. Ossoff has become a strong advocate for supporting law enforcement in a variety of ways. From mental health legislation to additional funding for personnel operations, he is committed to ensuring the members of his state receive professional law enforcement services.”

“As the Sheriff of Augusta-Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, I, Richard Roundtree, can tell you unequivocally that the COPS Hiring Program will help law enforcement agencies across the United States,” Augusta-Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree said. “We in law enforcement are facing a very challenging environment when it comes to recruitment, retention and hiring. I applaud Senator Ossoff’s efforts in promoting and facilitating this hiring program to help law enforcement to reduce and mitigate crime.”

“Recruiting and retaining top law enforcement officials continues to be one of my top priorities and challenges,” said Cobb County Sheriff Craig Owens. “The bipartisan Filling Public Safety Vacancies Act sponsored by U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff will help us better serve the people of Cobb County and attract the next generation of public safety leaders.”

“As Sheriff of Gwinnett County, my office has experienced firsthand the challenges of hiring and rehiring of law enforcement personnel. My perspective is the law enforcement community must be financially prepared to meet and provide safety to our communities,” said Gwinnett County Sheriff Keybo Taylor. “U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff’s Filling Public Safety Vacancies Act would provide the emergency supplemental funding to help accomplish this objective, therefore, I do not hesitate to give my full support to this new bill.”

“On behalf of the nation’s Sheriffs, we thank Senators Ossoff and Blackburn for their support of Law Enforcement. Recruitment and retention of law enforcement is a huge challenge right now, and these resources will be invaluable to improving both,” National Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jonathan Thompson said. “That and increasing crime prevention efforts is vital in keeping our communities safe.”

“Across the country, police departments are fighting to contain the increased violent crime our communities are facing, but they are understaffed, under-resourced, and struggling to hire and retain good, qualified officers. In introducing the Filling Public Safety Vacancies Act, Senator Ossoff recognizes the vital importance of the COPS Hiring Program, which provides invaluable assistance to state and local law enforcement agencies for the hiring and rehiring of qualified officers,” Bill Johnson, Executive Director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said. “This legislation will immediately inject much needed resources to state and local law enforcement agencies to help them hire and rehire thoroughly vetted officers and keep our communities safe.”

“The law enforcement profession continues to struggle with recruiting and retaining officers,” said Eddie Garcia, President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Chief of the Dallas Police Department. “Nearly every MCCA member is understaffed, which creates many operational and logistical challenges. COPS Hiring Grants are a critical tool, and this infusion of new resources will assist local law enforcement agencies with continuing to hire and rehire additional highly qualified law enforcement officers to serve their communities. The MCCA thanks Sen. Ossoff and Sen. Blackburn for their leadership on this critical issue.”

DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox also endorsed the bipartisan bill.

Sen. Ossoff continues to work to improve public safety and keep communities across Georgia safe. Last year, Sen. Ossoff’s bipartisan bill to fund law enforcement and mental health services became law. The Senate also recently passed his bipartisan legislation with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to protect children from online exploitation.

Click here to read the bipartisan Filling Public Safety Vacancies Act.


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