Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and his Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams continued their bidding war on public safety Thursday, with Abrams proposing a major pay hike for state police and prison guards, while the Republican incumbent said Georgia over school safety. Will cost at least $8 million more. After a shooting in Texas in which 19 students and two teachers were killed.
Each is attacking the other over security and violence, Kemp said, adding that Abrams “championed a far-left agenda that puts officials at risk and families at risk,” while speaking at a Democratic news conference for parents. One group slammed Kemp for loosening restrictions on guns. in Georgia, alleging that he puts his children at greater risk.
Kemp and Abrams were already pushing for crime, guns and safety, with Abrams saying last week that she wanted to roll back a series of gun rights expansions and focus less on punitive measures in Georgia.
Abrams countered the Republican narrative that she wanted to increase the funding by defaming the police, saying she would pay $50,000 a year to the state’s military cadets, prison guards and juvenile justice defenders. Now, a military cadet starts at over $40,000, an adult corrections officer $38,040 and a juvenile corrections officer $37,730. Abrams said it would take $182 million over two years to raise the pay.
“We can improve recruitment and retention efforts by improving community interactions with the people who keep us safe,” Abrams said in a statement. The plan was first reported by Axios.
Kemp announced Thursday at a school safety conference in Columbus that the state is giving $2.6 million to the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth to increase available training capacity and classrooms for school resource officers. He said the state would use $1 million in federal funding to enhance statewide school safety efforts, including training staff and school resource officers.
Kemp said the training center is reviewing how it trains officers following the widely criticized police response in Uvalde, Texas, and will offer an additional six active shooter classes this year.
Local and state law enforcement agencies 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 the school environment.
“While these are the latest measures we are taking to ensure the safety of our children, I can assure you that they will not be the last. I am with anyone, even in the midst of a heated election cycle, for the safety of our students. Will also work,” Kemp said in prepared remarks.
Kemp’s plan has largely kept up with the backlash among many Republicans for the mass shootings. He has 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 $30,000 to each school. The governor also won money to pay mental health professionals to work in high schools. Kemp spent $6 million in federal COVID-19 relief on student mental health.
Abrams on Thursday called for $25 million in grants to police departments and sheriff’s offices to increase pay and subsidize housing, saying local agencies must adopt state best practices to be eligible.
His campaign said those best practices would include new standards for the use of force, reducing confrontation, and intervening in crisis situations. He called for expanded 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 other proposals made Thursday. They include calling for the enforcement of guidelines on “community relations and transparency”, efforts to require “unlawful law enforcement and accountability for corrective violence and misconduct” and the need to build “community trust”.
Kemp’s campaign is airing ads saying that Abrams’ service as a board member of the Seattle-based Marguerite Casey Foundation proves that she supports the police insufficiently.
“Abrams can’t hide from his words and desire to support and profit from the Defend the Police organizations,” Kemp tweeted Thursday. “As long as Abrams serves on this board and supports her agenda, she cannot claim to support our men and women in the blue.”
Abrams has denied advocating for cuts in police funding. The Kemp campaign provided two clips, one in which Abrams says, “We have to allocate resources, so yes.” The Abrams campaign says those clips have been taken out of context.
Democrats slammed Kemp on Thursday for repealing Georgia’s prior requirement for permits and separate state background checks to carry a handgun in public.
“In a state where gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children and teens, Gov. Kemp is taking us in the wrong direction on gun safety,” said Valerie Calhoun. “And it worries me every time I drop my kids off at school.”
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