THE WASHINGTON REPORT

THE WASHINGTON REPORT

06/10/2022
 
June 10, 2022
 


Register Today for NAPO’s 44th Annual Convention

Join us for NAPO’s 44th Annual Convention. Participate in setting NAPO’s legislative priorities for the 118th Congress. Learn from presentations by prominent law enforcement figures about the latest developments in police policies and services and help determine NAPO’s path forward.

The 44th Annual Convention will be held at the iconic downtown Cleveland hotel, Metropolitan at The 9, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. The luxury hotel is located on East 9th Street, walking distance to all city attractions and urban dining.

When not attending the Convention Business Sessions Cleveland offers something for everyone…. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, The Children’s Museum, Great Lakes Science Center, boating & fishing on Lake Erie and a wide choice of breweries, trendy restaurants & pubs.

Very Special Thanks to Tom Austin and the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association for sponsoring many of the convention’s events. Without their financial support and tireless efforts, many of the events simply would not have been possible!

For registration and information including hotel reservations, transportation discounts andupdates to the meeting agenda and planned activities
check out NAPO’s Convention webpage:

www.napo.org/convention22

CLICK HERE FOR NAPO’s CONVENTION REGISTRATION

Senate Judiciary Approves Bill to Cover PTSD
Under the PSOB Program

On May 26, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the Public Safety Officer Support Act (S. 3635), moving this important legislation one step closer to enactment. The House passed the bill on May 18 by a significant bipartisan vote of 402-17.

This legislation, sponsored by Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representatives David Trone (D-MD) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), would make post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) a line of duty injury under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Program and ensure that officers who suffer from PTSD and those who take or attempt to take their own life as a result of on-duty trauma will be eligible under the program. The bill would also cover officers who die by trauma-linked suicide by directing the PSOB Program to presume that suicides are a result of job duties in certain circumstances, such as a mass casualty event, where there is evidence that PTSD would be a cause of the trauma.

In most instances, an officer’s survivor health care, pension benefits and life insurance become null and void if a public safety officer’s death is ruled a suicide, which makes the PSOB benefit so important. This bill would alleviate the financial strains that surviving families of such tragedies often suffer due to the loss of all other benefits.

There is no doubt that the everyday stresses and strains of the job as well as the often horrific nature of the crimes officers witness lead to PTSD and acute stress disorder. It is only recently that departments are working to address the mental health needs of their officers and even now, not every officer has access to reliable, confidential mental health and wellness services. While we hope we will get to a place where PTSD and similar mental health disorders are addressed before officers reach the point where they feel suicide is their only option, we are not there yet.

As we have so far largely failed to provide officers with the mental health services necessary to protect their mental wellbeing, it is only right that we make certain their families are taken care of after such a terrible loss.

While the bill has broad backing by a majority of the public safety community and the mental health community as well as large bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, it faces opposition from the Fire Chiefs who continue to try to throw up obstacles in order to stop its momentum. We also face concerns from Senate Republicans about the overall cost of the bill. We expect the Congressional Budget Office to issue its budget score soon and we will continue to work with Senators Duckworth and Cornyn and Judiciary Committee staff to overcome all hurdles to moving this important bill forward.

Bill to Improve HELPS Retirees Introduced in Senate

Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), John Thune (R- SD), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the Police and Fire Healthcare Protection Act (S. 4312) to improve the HELPS Retirees provision of the Pension Protection Act and ensure all public pension plans are able to implement it to the benefit of their public safety retirees.

The HELPS Retirees provision provides public safety officers, who often retire earlier than other occupations because of the physical demands and unique job hazards they face, with means to more affordable healthcare options. This is important as many law enforcement retirees lose their employer-provided health insurance and are years away from being Medicare-eligible, forcing them to spend their retirement money on health insurance premiums.

Under the HELPS Retirees Act, qualified, retired public safety officers can use up to $3,000 annually from their pension funds tax-free, including defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans, to pay for qualified health insurance and long-term care insurance premiums.

To qualify for the HELPS Retirees provision, a public safety officer must have attained normal retirement age or retired due to a disability and has insurance premiums deducted from their retirement benefit. The money must go directly from the pension fund to the health or insurance company in order to get the tax-free benefit. This direct payment requirement has been a hindrance for many pension plans to participating in HELPS.

This legislation addresses the fact that many public pension plans have not implemented this important provision due to the administrative burden of the direct payment requirement. In states and localities that do not provide retiree healthcare that can mean hundreds of different insurance plans that must be tracked. By repealing this requirement, it would make it easier for plans to execute the HELPS Retirees provision and ensure more public safety retirees can take advantage of this vital benefit.

The Police and Fire Healthcare Protection Act would help preserve the retirement security and the health of those public servants who selflessly served and protected our communities, and we are committed to seeing this important proposal passed this Congress.

NAPO, together with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA), and the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS), sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee urging them to include this important legislation in the next major retirement bill considered by the Committee, commonly referred to as the SECURE Act 2.0. We view this provision as a way to get our foot in the door to include both this repeal of the direct payment requirement and an increase in the benefit from $3,000 to $6,000, indexed to inflation.

House Judiciary Subcommittee Holds Hearing on
Municipal Employer Liability

On June 9, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held its second hearing on Examining Civil Rights Litigation Reform, “State and Local Government Employer Liability”. The first hearing was on March 31 and focused on the issue of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers. NAPO’s Executive Director and General Counsel, Bill Johnson, testified at that hearing and NAPO was the only witness out of eight to solidly defend the importance of qualified immunity for our officers and the communities we serve.

This latest hearing focused on Section 1983 litigation, civil action for the deprivation of rights under the color of law, with the Democrats and a majority of witnesses focused on the importance of vicarious liability and holding the employing agency responsible for the acts of its employee. The argument that is being made in favor municipal liability is that police misconduct is better dealt with by the municipality being liable rather than individual officers as it gives departments and agencies incentives to better train their officers, ensure they hire quality officers and put better policies and protocols in place.

Only one witness from the Manhattan Institute argued against municipal liability, stating it runs the risk of destabilizing insurance markets as agencies scramble to obtain liability insurance and it would harm local budgets, particularly those of small and rural municipalities. He went on to recommend to that municipal liability should only apply to a narrow set of cases and circumstances.

Municipal liability was discussed during Congressional police reform negotiations last year and NAPO shared our concerns with the issue and the possible unintended consequences of such a change in law. Any changes to municipal liability need to be tightly crafted to include caps on damages to be paid, limitations on how liability insurance companies dictate police practices and policies for the municipalities they cover and keep the cases it applies to very narrow. From our discussions with officers and chiefs in Colorado, which eliminated qualified immunity for officers and increased municipal liability last year, there have been significant consequences that are harming departments and officers that the State legislature must fix.

NAPO will monitor for any actions or legislative proposals that come out of the House Judiciary Committee on the issues of municipal liability and qualified immunity as a result of these hearings.

NAPO on the Hill: TBI & PTSD Law Enforcement Training

On May 18th, the House passed the bipartisan TBI and PTSD Law Enforcement Training Act (H.R. 2992) by an overwhelming vote of 400-21. This important bill would provide for much-needed additional training opportunities for law enforcement to improve officer response to persons affected by traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). NAPO is working with Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the sponsors of the Senate version of this bill, S. 4286, on quickly moving this important bill through the Senate and to the President’s desk.

Law enforcement officers are increasingly on the front lines in responding to and intervening in mental and behavioral health crises, including individuals with TBI or PTSD. Officers must be given the tools and training they need to identify and respond to mental health issues in the communities they serve. For these reasons, NAPO strongly supports federal funding and programs to help agencies train their officers to recognize and identify symptoms of TBI and PTSD so they can better respond to these situations. The TBI and PTSD Law Enforcement Training Act would make training and guidance available that departments can use as a basis to support improved responses and outcomes to interactions between police officers and persons affected by TBI and PTSD.

Importantly, this legislation also recognizes that law enforcement and first responders are among those in our communities who suffer from these afflictions and requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to do a study on the prevalence TBI and PTSD in the profession.

We are working through questions and concerns from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee so we can get the bill swiftly approved and to the Senate floor for a voice vote.

NAPO’s Legislative Positions & Sponsor/Cosponsor Updates

NAPO’s updated “Sponsor/Cosponsor” spreadsheet is available on NAPO’s website. The spreadsheet accompanies the latest Legislative Positions” document, which is also available on the NAPO website. NAPO's Legislative Positions is a document that highlights all the legislation that we have taken an official position on or are monitoring during the 117th Congress. It is continually updated to reflect the work we are doing on Capitol Hill.

The “Sponsor/Cosponsor” spreadsheet is a useful tool to check if your members of Congress have supported pieces of legislation that will impact our members. NAPO updates this spreadsheet regularly and continues to ensure our voice is heard on Capitol Hill.

 

Please monitor NAPO’s website, www.napo.org, and Facebook page: National Association of Police Organizations, and follow us on Twitter at NAPOpolice for breaking news and updates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

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