Biden signs bipartisan bills providing additional resources for police
President Biden on Thursday signed a trio of bipartisan bills aimed at providing additional resources for law enforcement officers as his administration stresses its support for police and other agencies.
Biden hosted a group of lawmakers and representatives of law enforcement agencies at the White House for the bill signing, where he emphasized the bipartisan nature of all three bills and offered yet another tacit rebuke of calls from some on the left to “defund the police.”
“When you look at what our communities need and what our law enforcement is being asked to do, it’s going to require more resources, not fewer resources,” Biden said before signing the bills. “That’s why my administration is investing in community policing. We know works and the training and partnership that law enforcement in our communities have requested.”
As Biden signed the bills, the Department of Justice announced nearly $140 million in grants to local law enforcement. The money, which will go to 183 different agencies, will allow for the hiring of more than 1,000 additional full-time officers. The money will also be used for initiatives to build trust between police and their communities, Biden said.
The first bill Biden signed on Thursday, the Protecting America’s First Responders Act of 2021, ensures law enforcement and first responders who are injured or disabled in the line of duty receive access to benefits promptly with adjustments for cost of living.
The bill was championed by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who joined Biden for the bill signing.
The president also signed the Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support Counseling Act, which Biden touted as a way to provide mental health resources to officers for anxiety or other issues that often go overlooked.
The bill would provide confidentiality to federal law enforcement officers who take advantage of counseling services, except for cases where officers admit to committing a crime, and would encourage first responder agencies to adopt counseling programs.
The third bill Biden signed on Thursday was named after Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila, two Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who were attacked by Mexican cartels in 2011. Zapata later died from his injuries.
The bill, also backed by Grassley, would ensure that those who have killed or attempted to kill U.S. federal law enforcement and employees who are serving abroad can be prosecuted in the United States.
The president concluded Thursday’s remarks with a call for Congress to pass police reform after talks broke down earlier this year.
“I’m asking bipartisan leaders here today to come together with them as you’ve done before to finally pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. That’s next,” Biden said.
The Biden administration has consistently touted its support for law enforcement, pointing to funding in the American Rescue Plan passed in March and the Justice Department grant funding for local departments to hire more officers.
Biden has in the past rejected calls from some progressives to “defund the police,” a slogan that refers to reallocating resources to counseling and other social services but that moderate Democrats have argued cost the party votes in 2020.