Kelly, Hawley Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Boost Local Law Enforcement Recruitment and Retention

Today, Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced the Educational and Career Opportunities for Public Safety (EdCOPS) Act of 2024, bipartisan legislation to support local law enforcement recruitment and retention efforts.  

Law enforcement agencies across the country face a historic crisis in hiring and keeping qualified candidates. The EdCOPS Act of 2024 will address this by providing education benefits to public safety officers and their dependents.  

This bill was developed after conversations between Kelly and former Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, who retired earlier this year.  

“As the son of two police officers, I have a personal appreciation for the work local law enforcement do every day to keep us safe,” said Kelly. “With the EdCOPS Act, we’re supporting this crucial work by providing them with academic and career opportunities so they can reach their full potential while serving their communities. This investment will retain valuable officers and help recruit new ones, making our state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies stronger.”  

“As crime rates rise and law enforcement agencies experience staffing shortages, Congress must ensure that states have the resources they need to attract and retain high-quality police officers. This bill would do just that by investing in the men and women in blue who keep our communities safe,” said Hawley

Supporters of the bill include the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA), Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, Pima County Sheriff’s Office, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Nogales Police Department, Tucson Police Department, Flagstaff Police Department, Prescott Valley Police Department, Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA), and the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Arizona (CLEAA).  


A 2023 Police Executive Research study shows that police agencies are losing officers faster than they can hire new ones. The study reports that agencies saw 50 percent more resignations from officers in 2022 than in 2019, and total sworn officer staffing has dropped nearly 5 percent over the past three years.    

Under this bill, a public safety officer who has served for eight years and commits to serving four more for a single employer are eligible to receive financial assistance to attend a program of higher education. An eligible public safety officer can also transfer their unused education benefits to their dependent.  

Click here to read the bill text.  

See what Arizona and national law enforcement leaders are saying in support of the legislation:  

“The sacrifices by those who wear a uniform are the pillars for our free nation. Senator Kelly has served and respects the sacrifices of our public safety professionals. This legislation speaks to his commitment for law enforcement families,” said former Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone. 

“Law enforcement agencies across the country serving urban, rural, big, and small communities are struggling to retain qualified officers. Education benefits have proven not only to increase officer loyalty towards their department but also improve officer performance and allow for greater promotion within the department. Under the EdCOPS Act, officers can choose to use the education assistance for themselves or for their children, creating opportunities that benefit their families. This Act will be an important tool for departments to retain experienced officers and we thank Senators Kelly and Hawley for their support of the law enforcement community,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations.  

“Nationwide, attracting and retaining high quality police officers has been challenging over the past decade for a variety of reasons, to include inadequate local funding and resources. We applaud Senator Kelly for his innovative and collaborative approach to providing additional opportunities and benefits for our nation’s front-line heroes. This legislation will have a direct, positive effect on the communities we serve by assisting in the retention of competent, experienced police officers and providing support for them in their pursuit of higher education. We are grateful for Senator Kelly’s support and dedication to this legislation,” said Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Darrell Kriplean. 

“Law enforcement agencies across the nation continue to be challenged with adequate staffing levels and appropriate compensation for the men and women providing public safety and correctional services in our communities; I am in support of this bill. This is a forward step in recognizing the tough job that our law enforcement and correctional staff have while providing an enhanced benefit and pathway for their career or dependent support,” said Maricopa County Sheriff Russ Skinner.  

“The essential element for a law enforcement agency to be a trusted and valuable asset to its community is its people. Attracting and retaining people with a heart of service and aptitude for policing remains a huge challenge. Finding ways to support our teams through benefits, wellness and educational development is crucial in these times. Senator Kelly and Senator Hawley, recognize these needs and for that, I am grateful. Their bipartisan efforts truly amplify support for our most valuable asset:  our treasured law enforcement teams,” said Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos.  

“The Educational and Career Opportunities for Public Safety Act of 2024 will create a new level of assistance for local law enforcement professionals to obtain more formal education. As the future of law enforcement and criminal justice becomes more complex, higher education becomes increasingly necessary to effectively deal with and manage complex issues. With the passage of this Act, tremendous opportunities will be created for law enforcement officers to attain academic degrees to better serve their communities,” said Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll.  

“The education benefits provided under the Educational and Career Opportunities for Public Safety (EdCOPS) Act of 2024 will significantly benefit the Tucson Police Department by attracting and retaining highly qualified public safety officers through financial assistance for higher education. This initiative not only enhances the professional development of officers but also boosts morale and loyalty, ensuring the department maintains a dedicated, competent, and skilled workforce crucial for serving, connecting, and keeping the Tucson community safe,” said Tucson Police Chief Chad Kasmar.  

“This will encourage good officers to remain in the profession, knowing they can pass on the benefit of a college education to their kids,” said Flagstaff Police Chief Dan Musselman.