In a recent hearing to address crime and public safety, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston proposed a $75 million increase in the state budget to strengthen law enforcement.
Ralston’s proposal would give a $1,000 bonus to each officer and sheriff’s deputy in the state, as well as a pay raise for prosecutors and public defenders.
According to Fox 5, the speaker is also requesting that more funds be set aside for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and to hire more state troopers. In addition, he referenced a 2022 bill in the pipeline that strengthens the GBI and allows the department to launch investigations without a request from a state or local agency.
“Today, I announce a significant investment in personnel and resources to keep our streets safe and our state a great place to live, to work and to raise a family,” Ralston stated.
Ralston also said he would appoint a committee to study whether the state should intervene in policing.
The breakdown of the $75 million is as follows: $25 million would go toward bonuses for officers and deputies; more than $20 million would go to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and $10 million toward salary increases for state prosecutors and public defenders. $7 million is earmarked for additional crisis beds at the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability. The rest, according to Ralston, will be used by the GBI to hire employees for death investigations, forensic services and other specialized task forces.
The hearing was a response to increased crime in the state’s capital city. According to Fox 5, the Atlanta Police Department recorded 154 homicides in 2020, compared to an annual average of around 90 over the previous decade. So far in 2021, the trend is not only continuing but worsening. Aggravated assaults, which include nonfatal shootings, have also risen significantly, in addition to homicides.
“We owe it to our communities to bolster law enforcement and mental health services in a time when some areas of our state are seeing a dramatic increase in crime and the number of individuals in need of mental health care,” Ralston said. “This proposal is one I am proud to offer and the House of Representatives will stand firmly behind when we consider it as part of our 2022 budget process.”
Governor Brian Kemp also announced during the discussion that he would include several crime-fighting proposals in the upcoming fall legislative session.