Gov. Nathan Deal proposed Thursday a 20 percent pay hike for state law enforcement officers and an overhaul of police training to include more courses on use of force and community policing after a summer of violence and unrest in the nation’s streets.
The governor’s plan would cost nearly $79 million to hike the median salary of the roughly 3,300 state law enforcement officers by an average of about $8,000. It would also require four additional hours of annual training for Georgia’s 57,000 sworn officers and expand a program focusing on mental health crises.
“I am a firm believer that if we’re going to fulfill our obligation of keeping our citizens safe, we have to pay those primarily charged with that responsibility for those efforts,” Deal said in an interview. “It’s a step to recognize and appreciate their sacrifices.”
The budget proposal would require legislative approval, but the governor and his aides are so confident of its passage they plan to include the 20 percent raise in paychecks in January – even before lawmakers can vote on the changes.
House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle were also on hand to support the proposal at a Capitol announcement that included hundreds of police officers.
Deal also wants to expand the state’s Crisis Intervention Training program, which trains officers to handle crises involving people with mental illnesses. And he would create a task force to review police training regimens and recommend improvements.