CARLSBAD — Congressman Mike Levin (D-CA) and local law enforcement representatives held a press conference on April 15 at the Carlsbad Police Department lobbying Congress to establish a grant program to help support smaller law enforcement agencies.
The bill, Invest to Protect Act, would establish a grant program of $50 million per year for law enforcement departments with 200 or fewer employees, Levin said. The funding would be used for de-escalation training, officer safety, domestic violence response, recruitment and retention.
Levin said the legislation, which has a sister bill in the U.S. Senate, is co-sponsored by 19 Republicans and 36 Democrats, including himself. According to Levin, now is the time to invest more into law enforcement to help build trust with the communities they serve.
“We can support law enforcement and improve policing at the same time,” Levin said. “I firmly believe those principles go hand-in-hand. If we want to make law enforcement better, defunding is certainly not the answer. I’ve never supported that and never will. Instead, we should increase funding for police in a way that helps them stay safe, do their jobs more effectively and continue to earn the trust of the communities they serve.”
Jim Willis, president of the Carlsbad Police Officers’ Association, and Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, also backed the bill, emphasizing one of the major concerns facing cities is rising crime and officer retention.
Willis said 65% of Carlsbad police officers have less than five years of experience, along with dozens who have transferred or left the profession over the past several years. Willis stressed the need for further investment in the police.
According to Willis, the police union is negotiating a new contract with the city, which is struggling to meet the group’s demands on its current budget and is exploring options to increase revenue.
The need for more financial support is based on increased demands being placed on local police officers, including conducting outreach related to homelessness, mental illness and addiction, all of which add to officer training costs. But the greatest benefit for Carlsbad Police and other similarly-sized law enforcement agencies would be the ability to retain sworn officers.
“This high turnover rate for us locally is devastating,” Willis said. “When we lose those officers, we lose the institutional knowledge. The funds can be used for things like retention bonuses and backfill officers we’ve lost over the years.”
Marvel said budgets have been slashed dating back to the 2008 recession, with law enforcement services often first on the chopping block. Also, public safety demands and calls for service have grown amidst anti-police backlash and “ill-advised” notions to “defund police,” making it more difficult for officers to build trust and perform their duties safely and effectively, Marvel said.
“(A lack of funding) has also had the devastating impact on local police departments to recruit, train, hire and retain the right officers we need for the job,” Marvel said. “(Peace Officers Research Association of California) has been calling for increased funding to support our nation’s law enforcement for years. The grant program will bring significant investments to police departments in California and the nation.”
Levin said he will submit an amendment to increase the size of departments to either 250 or 300 officers. The congressman said investments should be made for more body cameras and data storage, mental health resources, and both de-escalation and domestic violence training.