Scott Celebrates Passage of Bipartisan De-escalation Training Bill, Urges Biden to Sign
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), along with Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), released statements celebrating House passage of the bipartisan Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act. The bill, which now heads to President Biden’s desk for his signature, would equip law enforcement officers with the tools to effectively and safely respond to people in crisis.
“Equipping America’s law enforcement officers with resources and training to respond to all types of emergencies is critical for the safety of both the officers and the communities they serve,” said Senator Scott. “That’s why I’ve been calling for more resources for de-escalation training, as a part of my years-long efforts to pass comprehensive police funding and reform legislation. I was pleased that my colleagues in the House joined in our bipartisan push for more and better training by passing our bipartisan Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act last night. I urge President Biden to sign it into law as soon as possible.”
“By giving law enforcement the tools they need to help those experiencing mental health emergencies and other crises, we can help make communities safer by building a stronger bridge between the criminal justice system and mental health care,” said Sen. Cornyn “I’m grateful to my colleagues in the House for passing this critical legislation, and I urge the President to promptly sign this bill into law.”
“I’m pleased to see the House pass the Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act and send it the President’s desk,” said Sen. Whitehouse. “Every day police officers are called on to respond to complex situations involving mental and behavioral health issues. I’m grateful for Senator Cornyn’s partnership on this bipartisan piece of legislation that will equip officers with the training and resources to handle those issues safely and appropriately. Many Rhode Island police departments have shown real leadership in this area and I’m grateful to them for their advice and support.”
Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Mont.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) also cosponsored the bill, which would empower police and the mental health professionals working with them to link individuals to mental and behavioral health services in their community. Companion legislation in the House was led by Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), David Trone (D-Md.), and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).
In June 2020, Senator Scott introduced the JUSTICE Act, legislation to improve policing in America by giving law enforcement officers the training and resources necessary needed to improve safety in our neighborhoods. In the year after the bill was blocked, homicides in U.S. cities reached near record highs. Among other things, the JUSTICE Act would have implemented the same requirements for developing de-escalation training standards that the Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act addresses.
Studies estimate that as many as six to ten percent of law enforcement encounters involve persons experiencing serious mental illnesses. People in crisis account for between 25-50% of fatalities during law enforcement encounters. Training in de-escalation tactics and other techniques can reduce excessive force complaints and fatalities during law enforcement encounters, and crisis intervention teams can improve outcomes.
The bill would build off the existing Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program to create a dedicated stream of funding to local and state law enforcement agencies to train officers, and mental health professionals who work with them, in de-escalation tactics, alternatives to use of force, safely responding to mental, behavioral, and suicidal crises, and more.
The bipartisan Law Enforcement De-escalation Training Act would:
- Require the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to develop curricula in the training topics, or identify existing curricula, in consultation with law enforcement, mental health organizations, family advocacy organizations, and civil rights and civil liberties groups, among other stakeholders;
- Authorize $124 million in grant funding over four years for training, including scenario-based exercises and evaluative assessments; and
- Require the National Institute of Justice and the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the implementation of the program and the effect of the training, to ensure that the curricula have a tangible impact on law enforcement encounters with people in crisis, and identify possible changes that would further improve outcomes.