Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and his Democratic challenger, Stacey Abrams, continued their bidding war over public safety on Thursday, with Abrams offering a big pay raise for state police and prison guards, while the incumbent Republican said Georgia would spend at least $8 million more on school safety. after a shooting in Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers.
Each attacks the other on safety and violence, with Kemp saying Abrams has “defended a far-left agenda that puts officers at risk and families at risk”, while a group of parents at a Democratic news conference slammed Kemp for easing gun restrictions in Georgia, alleging he puts their children at greater risk.
Kemp and Abrams were already playing crime, guns and safety, with Abrams saying last week that she wanted to reverse a series of gun rights extensions and focus less on punitive measures in Georgia.
Abrams hit back at the Republican narrative that she wants to take funding away from the police by saying she wants to increase funding, saying she would pay $50,000 a year to state trooper cadets, prison guards and to guardians of juvenile justice. Now, a cadet soldier starts at just over $40,000, an adult correctional officer at $38,040, and a juvenile correctional officer at $37,730. Abrams said it would take $182 million over two years to raise wages.
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“We can improve recruitment and retention efforts while improving community interactions with those who protect us,” Abrams said in a statement. The plan was first reported by Axios.
Kemp announced on Thursday at a school safety conference in Columbus that the state provide $2.6 million to the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth to increase training capacity and available courses for school resource officers. He said the state would use $1 million in federal funds to bolster school protection efforts across the state, including training staff and school resource officers.
Kemp said the training center is reviewing how it trains officers after the widely criticized police response in Uvalde, Texas, and will provide six additional active shooter classes this year.
Local and state law enforcement will be able to compete for $4.5 million in grants for school safety, use of force and de-escalation training, and mental health needs.
Finally, Kemp said the state is seeking $3 million in federal grants to increase training and improve school climate.
“While these are the last steps we are taking to keep our children safe, I can assure you that they will not be the last. I will work with anyone, even in the midst of a heated election cycle, to protect our students,” Kemp said in prepared remarks.
Kemp’s plan largely respects the response of many Republicans to mass shootings. They refused to back down on gun rights, focusing on other measures.
Georgia provided $69 million in school safety grants in 2019, Kemp’s first year in office, guaranteeing each school $30,000. The governor also secured funds to pay mental health professionals to work in high schools. Kemp spent $6 million in federal COVID-19 aid for student mental health.
Abrams also called Thursday for $25 million in grants for police departments and sheriff’s offices to raise salaries and subsidize housing, saying local agencies should adopt state best practices to be eligible.
His campaign said these best practices would include new standards on the use of force, de-escalation of confrontations and intervention in crisis situations. She called for increased efforts to have people trained in mental health and social services respond to some police calls, an effort Kemp and Republican lawmakers also support.
The Abrams campaign did not respond to questions about the other proposals made Thursday. They include a call to enforce guidelines on “community relations and transparency,” an effort to demand “accountability for unlawful law enforcement and correctional violence and misconduct,” and strengthening the “community trust”.
Kemp’s campaign runs ads saying Abrams’ service as a board member of the Seattle-based Marguerite Casey Foundation proves she doesn’t support the police enough.
“Abrams cannot hide from his own words and willingness to support and profit from Defund the Police organizations”, Kemp tweeted on Thursday. “As long as Abrams sits on this council and supports their agenda, she cannot claim to support our men and women in blue.”
Abrams denies ever advocating for cuts to police funding. The Kemp campaign provided two clips, including one where Abrams says, “We need to allocate resources, so yes.” The Abrams campaign says these clips were taken out of context.
Democrats again slammed Kemp on Thursday for repealing Georgia’s old requirement for state licensing and background checks to carry a handgun in public.
“In a state where gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents, Governor Kemp is moving us in the wrong direction when it comes to gun safety,” said Valerie Calhoun. “And it worries me every time I drop my kids off at school.
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