Why we must invest to protect our communities
This op-ed originally ran in the Bakersfield Californian on May 15, 2022
By Rep. David Valadao
This week is National Police Week — a time to honor the brave officers who gave their lives in the line of duty. It is also an important time to express our thanks to current law enforcement officers for their service. With crime rates on the rise in California and across the country, now more than ever we need to equip our law enforcement officers with the tools necessary to serve and protect our communities.
Unfortunately, the anti-police climate created by far-left politicians, coupled with California’s soft-on-crime policies, are making these already difficult jobs even harder.
In my meetings with local police, I hear directly from officers about how these challenges are affecting their force. The anti-police sentiment across the country has made it more difficult to recruit and retain talent. A survey of departments by the Police Executive Research Forum confirms this, and shows retirements are up 45 percent and resignations up 18 percent compared to the year prior. California’s lax sentencing policies have incentivized repeat offenders, leading to more criminals on the streets that our officers are picking up over and over again just to see them commit more crime. Police officers are being asked to respond to complicated situations like mental health emergencies and domestic violence. These increasing responsibilities coupled with staff shortages and a society that is eager to make police the bad guys is resulting in burnout and low morale.
Our law enforcement officers are consistently being asked to do more with less resources. Cutting department budgets doesn’t making any of these challenges better and won’t make our communities safer. Police departments in small communities, like many in the Central Valley, struggle to have enough funding to properly recruit, train and provide resources for their officers. We need to incentivize qualified candidates to serve and protect the communities we live in. I’m proud to support legislation in Congress that would provide law enforcement with the tools they need to succeed. The bipartisan Invest to Protect Act would establish a grant program through the Department of Justice to fund training for de-escalation, domestic violence and officer safety to local police departments with less than 200 officers. In this year’s government funding bill, I secured critical federal dollars for our local police departments, including funding for the Kings County sheriff’s body camera program and the Lemoore police dispatch center.
Investing in public safety is just common sense — and it is something we should all support. In addition to making sure our departments are properly funded, we also need to provide support for our police officers and their families. Our officers answer traumatic calls, including homicides, child abuse and domestic violence, and we need to prioritize their mental health and make sure we are giving them the resources they need to do these difficult jobs. The Invest to Protect Act provides grants for mental health services, treatments and therapy for the police officers of small communities like ours.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 472 officers died in the line of duty in 2021, and so far in 2022, 91 officers have been killed on the job. Each of these officers put on their uniform and went to work knowing the risk they were taking. We owe it to these officers to ensure those who are currently serving have the resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.
I am proud to support our police officers here in the Central Valley. National Police Week reminds us that our police officers are everyday heroes, who too often don’t get the recognition and appreciation they deserve. I will continue working to make sure our law enforcement officers have the tools and resources they need to keep themselves, and our communities, safe.
Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, is the representative for California’s 21st Congressional District, which includes Kings County and portions of Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties. He is a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership.