Justice Department Awards $139M for More Cops

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Transit police in Philadelphia. Photo by Thomas Gorman via Flickr

The Justice Department is giving $139 million to police departments across the U.S. as part of a grant program that would bring on more than 1,000 new officers, reports ABC News. The grant funding comes through the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and will be awarded to 183 law enforcement agencies across the country and in U.S. territories.

The money will be given directly to police and sheriff’s departments to hire the new law enforcement officers. The Justice Department says half of the agencies plan to use the money “to focus on building legitimacy and trust between law enforcement and communities,” while others will use it to build mental health programs or focus on violent crime. In total, the funding allots 1,066 new officers for a total cost of $139,232,523.

The announcement comers a day after President Joe Biden signed into law the Protecting America’s First Responders Act of 2021 (PAFRA) which provides first responders who die or are permanently disabled in the line of duty with a federal benefit of $370,000 and education assistance of $1,200 a month to their children or spouse.

Currently, first responders permanently disabled in the line of duty are only eligible for Public Safety Officer Benefits (PSOB) if they can never again perform any compensated work. This high bar leaves behind far too many public safety officers. PAFRA corrects this by ensuring disabled first responders whose work is for therapeutic purposes, involves simple tasks, or provides special accommodations can still receive benefits.

The bill also provides for retroactive disability benefits to public safety officers who responded to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, allowing those first responders who became permanently disabled from their heroic work at Ground Zero to re-apply for disability benefits. It also addresses lengthy delays in processing benefit claims, so that impacted officers and families aren’t left waiting for their owed relief during the most difficult of times.

PAFRA extends benefits to certain public safety officers not currently covered, including officers who act outside of their jurisdiction in an emergency situation, trainee officers, and fire-police who handle traffic and crime scene management.

“During this devastating pandemic, America’s first responders have stood valiantly on the frontlines. Every single day, our firefighters, police, and EMS have risked their lives and the well-being of their families to keep our communities alive. With President Biden’s signing today, this government has made clear that America’s heroes will now be protected should the worst come to pass,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) the bill’s co-sponsor.

“Going forward, first responders and their families will no longer have to face delays and red tape to receive the benefits they earned.”

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