Thousands of men and women put their lives on the line every day to protect our population. From police officers and fire fighters to paramedics and EMT’s, we owe these public safety workers and first responders a debt of gratitude. However, in recent years many of these same people have faced cuts to their pay and their benefits. I will seek budget solutions that pay these folks enough to live in the communities they serve, and I will push to restore their benefits to their previous levels. Living in the communities they serve allows these individuals to build a strong bond of trust with the people, something that is absolutely vital for providing effective services. Restoring benefits will ensure that those who have spent their lives keeping us safe are able to retire comfortably as they have earned.
At the same time we must acknowledge that, while the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers are good people with genuine concern for public safety, there are occasionally some “bad apples” – and we must take steps to ensure that they do not spoil the bunch. These actions must toe a very fine line between increasing accountability and imposing unnecessary restrictions on officers. I believe that expanding the use of body cameras and increasing de-escalation training is the answer to this problem.
While studies have presented mixed results as to whether the presence of body cameras reduces use of force, either by or against law enforcement, they do provide objective evidence for investigative review. This objectivity is necessary for exonerating the good cops and holding accountable the bad. Providing this objectivity will help to reduce the increasing distrust between the public at large and our law enforcement officials.
Training is the key to reducing use of force and better handling of all calls for public safety. Recently, the Georgia Law Enforcement Training Review Commission recommended increasing training requirements for law enforcement. The training recommendations include training on domestic violence, use of force, de-escalation, and interactions with the mentally ill and individuals with cognitive disabilities. These recommendations represent a comprehensive overhaul of our training programs, and law enforcement groups from across the country are supportive of these changes. Implementing these necessary changes will be a focus of my time in the state legislature.