Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed a 20 percent raise for more than 3,300 state law officers as well as reforms to officer training and certification procedures.
The pay increase would be effective Jan. 1 and amount to almost $79 million in an amended fiscal year 2017 budget and the fiscal 2018 budget.
The proposals, made Thursday, are vital to keeping officers with the state, according to state Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gillsville.
“We’re training these guys,” Dunahoo said. “And they’re leaving for better-paying jobs.”
Dunahoo pointed to the daily dangers of working in law enforcement and said he knows of several young men who went through a year of training with the Georgia State Patrol before changing professions because of the money.
Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, said “it’s a long time coming.”
“It’s a great idea,” Hawkins said. “They’ve been underpaid for years.”
Hawkins went a step further, saying local law enforcement such as police and sheriff’s departments should have increased pay, as well.
In a culture where officers have become “less appreciated,” Hawkins said, Deal’s proposals “will definitely help.”
Deal said he made the proposals after input from the Georgia Public Safety Training Center and the Peace Officer Standards and Training Center.
“It is incumbent upon the government to recruit and retain the best and brightest, while equipping them with the training and resources they require,” Deal said in a news release. “They deserve our unwavering commitment and support.”
In addition to calling for higher pay for state law enforcement officers, Deal proposed increased continuing education training and certification courses; streamlining and expansion of crisis intervention training, also known as CIT; and creating a task force to receive the current basic law enforcement officer training course.
The continuing education training and certification courses would include “training on use of force, the concepts of effective policing and the importance of building positive community relations,” according to the news release.
Meanwhile, the CIT program “is designed to equip officers with the knowledge and skill to approach crises involving individuals with mental illness. It is currently administered by the GBI, which has trained about 9,500 state and local law enforcement officers.”
Dunahoo said he’s 100 percent for the proposals.
“Each day these officers wake up in the morning, they don’t know what’s going to happen or if they’re going to come home,” Dunahoo said. “They don’t take life for granted. We need to remember that they’re there for our security and our protection.”