Recognizing that Georgia’s public safety officers have difficult and dangerous jobs for which they are not adequately compensated, Governor Deal announced a two part law enforcement initiative this morning, including a 20% pay raise for the state’s law enforcement officers and additional training programs designed to improve officers’ skills and effectiveness. Flanked by Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, Speaker of the House David Ralston, legislative leadership, and literally hundreds of state patrol, GBI, and other law enforcement personnel, Deal made the announcement at the Capitol this morning.
“We ask our law enforcement personnel at all levels and at all ranks to do a very difficult job, one that requires great skill, long suffering, and dedication of purpose,” Deal said, “These brave and caring men and women, many who are here today, they go out every shift to face uncertainty, and danger so that their neighbors may not have to do so. And while their jobs have only become more difficult and dangerous over the years, the thanks they receive has not kept pace.”
The governor’s law enforcement reform proposal includes a 20% raise for the state’s approximately 3,314 individuals working in various branches of law enforcement. The 20% raise, which is on top of a 6% increase approved by the General Assembly during the 2016 session, will take effect January 1st, and will cost close to $79 million, split between the amended FY 2017 budget and the 2018 budget. The increases move the compensation for the state’s law enforcement officers from sixth to third in the southeast, and from 50th to 24th in the United States.
In addition to the pay increase, the governor announced an overhaul of training programs for state and local law enforcement, divided into three parts. Officers will be required to take an additional four hours of training in order to become POST certified in areas including use of force, the concepts of effective policing and the importance of building positive community relations. Two hours of this training can be chosen from electives that meet the specific needs of the officer’s duties.
A crisis intervention training program that was originally developed in 2004 will be expanded and made available to more officers. Currently run by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the program will relocate to the state’s law enforcement training center in Forsyth, where it will be available to an additional 57,000 state and local officers.
The third part of the training program revisions is the creation of a task force to review basic law enforcement training and to determine, after working with members of the community, any changes that should be made.
Plans to increase compensation for the state’s law enforcement employees have been under consideration for several years, but couldn’t be implemented until the state’s reserve fund had been replenished following the lean times after the great recession. In his remarks, Speaker David Ralston compared the state’s budget to that of a family budget, stating that with this initiative, “You can see clearly where our priorities are, and today, we are reaffirming our commitment, our solemn duty, to those who answer the call to serve.”
Following the announcement, Governor Deal, Lt. Governor Cagle, and Speaker Ralston took time to shake hands with every member of law enforcement present, a process that took over half an hour.