By Peter Cameron, THE BADGER PROJECT
Proponents of bipartisanship and law enforcement got a big victory last week in the U.S. House of Representatives. A large bipartisan majority voted to approve a bill that will give $60 million over the next five years to law enforcement agencies with fewer than 125 officers to do things like purchase body cameras, provide de-escalation training and improve recruitment and retention.
The Invest to Protect Act passed the House overwhelmingly — 360-64 — with heavy support from both Democrats and Republicans. Only 9 Democrats and 55 Republicans voted against it. The bill also split the five Republican and three Democratic representatives from Wisconsin, with members of each party voting for and against the bill.
Rep. Tom Tiffany, a Republican who represents much of northern Wisconsin and has been frequently critical of the “Defund the police” movement, voted against the measure. He did not respond to questions asking why he did not support a bill that would send funding to nearly all of the law enforcement agencies in his mostly rural district.
Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the largest law enforcement union in the state, celebrated the bill’s big step forward.
“Since the 9/11 attack on our country in 2001, federal support for law enforcement has dramatically shifted towards large metropolitan law enforcement agencies and away from smaller departments,” he wrote in an email. “This bipartisan bill will help agencies address the growing shortage of officers in Wisconsin and provide more training and mental health resources to law enforcement personnel. These priorities are in line with what we have learned through our statewide polling effort each year, and it’s a strong rebuke of those that would like to defund the vital services that law enforcement officers provide.”
Like most industries across the county, law enforcement is struggling to recruit officers while unemployment rates are at near record lows. Wisconsin is no different. The total number of law enforcement officers in the state hit a record low in 2022.
The bill now goes back to the Senate, where a version had already passed. The House version of the bill would need to pass the Senate before the president can sign it into law.
UW-Madison political science Professor David Canon said he doubted the Senate would pass the House’s version without further tweaks. A conference committee of House and Senate members might be needed to reach a compromise on the bill, he noted. Canon guessed a final version of the bill won’t pass until the lame duck session in December after the election.
He applauded the passage of the bill, saying it follows his mantra for how politics should operate: don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
“We have to compromise to be able to get things done,” Canon said. “You’re never going to have the perfect bill. You have to (tolerate) some things in the bill that you may not like, but there’s a lot of good stuff that you do like. That’s why the extreme left and right voted against it, because they’re still operating in that mindset of ‘I want the perfect bill that does everything I want it to do.’ Well, the legislative process doesn’t work that way.”
The nays consisted of the most rightwing Republican representatives like Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, and the most leftwing Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush.
Here’s how the eight congressional representatives from Wisconsin voted on the bill, and what, if anything, they had to say about it.
Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah)
Grothman voted against the bill. His office did not respond to messages seeking comment. Democrats did not run a candidate against Grothman this election, so he has little to fear from voters in his heavily Republican district.
Mark Pocan (D-Madison)
Pocan, a leader of the House’s leftwing Progressive Caucus, was one of the nine Democrats to vote against the bill. Through a spokesman, Pocan said he voted no because “I had questions about the bill that weren’t answered because it didn’t go through the committee process.” Pocan’s district, which includes liberal Madison and Dane County, is safely Democratic.
Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua)
Earlier in September, he joined several other Republicans to introduce a bill named the Combating Violent and Dangerous Crime Act, which they say will strengthen violent crime laws.
“As a result of the Democrats’ ‘defund the police’ movement, soft-on-crime policies, and reckless bail reform efforts, far too many Americans have become victims of the deadly crime wave plaguing our neighborhoods,” Tiffany said in a press release announcing the bill.
His office did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Rep. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau)
The son of a Chicago police officer, Fitzgerald voted for the bill. His office did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Allouez)
A former Marine and a veteran of the second Iraq War, Gallagher voted for the bill. His office did not respond to messages seeking comment. Democrats did not run a candidate against Gallagher this fall, but he will face two challengers — a Libertarian and an Independent — in his heavily Republican district.
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee)
Moore voted in favor of the bill. Her district consists mainly of Milwaukee, which has suffered record homicides the past few years, but whose police department would not receive money from the bill. Her office did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse)
Kind, a moderate Democrat, voted in favor of the bill. His office did not respond to messages seeking comment. Kind is retiring from Congress in December after representing western Wisconsin for more than 20 years. Republicans hope to flip his seat in the fall.
Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Janesville)
Steil voted in favor of the bill. In the most recent round of redistricting, Steil’s district in southeastern Wisconsin moved from being very favorable to Republicans closer towards the political middle, making it more competitive for Democrats.
“The Invest to Protect Act makes critical investments in our local police departments,” Steil said through a spokeswoman. “This will provide the training and resources necessary to keep everyone in our communities safe. I’ll continue working to support law enforcement.”
Full list of what the House version of the bill would fund
1. De-escalation training for law enforcement officers
2. Victim-centered training for law enforcement officers in handling situations of domestic violence
3. Evidence-based law enforcement safety training for response to calls for service involving, veterans, addiction, mental health disabilities, homelessness, domestic and sexual abuse and trafficking
4. Funding for overtime costs
5. Signing bonuses for new officers
6. Retention bonuses for existing officers
7. Funding for officers to receive education in the areas of mental health, public health, or social work
8. Providing access to patient-centered behavioral health services for officers
9. Implementation of evidence-based best practices and training on the use of lethal and nonlethal force, as well as on the of officers to provide care and to intervene if another officer is not following rules
10. Data collection for police practices regarding officer and community safety
The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.