Supporting Law Enforcement through Reform
Reallocation of Funding and a New Look at Department Policy
One thing I am very passionate about and strongly advocate for is supporting our police departments and law enforcement. However, supporting an individual who works in law enforcement is very different from support the system of law enforcement as a whole. Both citizens and police officers agree that the system as it stands right now does not work. On one hand, you have police officers who do not have quality training or education for the job, who are underpaid, and who work in underfunded departments. On the other hand, this creates a very dangerous environment for people of color, families living in poverty, people with disabilities and individuals who have been formerly incarcerated. Police become people to be feared and avoided rather than the public servants and trusted community members they should be.
The solutions to these problems start with identifying the root of the issue. Many police officers and departments agree that there can be work done in areas like standardized training throughout the state, establishing operation standards, and mental & physical health requirements for officers including standardized minimum insurance policies for officers and their families. Georgia is a "Right to Work" state, so Georgia police officers are mot required to join unions like officers in New York or California are. Police unions are helpful to have for insurance, legal aid, tuition assistance, and travel expenses while working, and can be regulated to ensure due process and avoid inside corruption.
Having standardized training and certification requirements will allow the public to know that police officers are trained to handle all situations, and are not biased or prejudice while on the job. Additionally, this will allow police officers to have an easier transitions between departments that are all trained with the same standards. From a public standpoint, a person will know a police officer in Georgia is going to have the same training no matter what city you're in.
Overall, standardized training ensures public and officer safety that much more.
In the past, Georgia has made strong efforts to reform our criminal justice system and protect public safety. These reforms were able to be produced by acknowledging that we were paying an enormous price tag for a system that was not giving us the results we needed, and that we can (and must) do better to achieve real justice. The reforms resulted in not only an overall decline in our prison population, but also a 30% decrease in the number of African Americans incarcerated over the 8-year period. Additionally, the number of youth in secure confinement and secure detention fell by more than a third and 11%, respectively. Today, we've seen an increase in these number as we've neglected to keep up with these efforts through Covid-19. Gun violence and homicides have strongly increased between 2019-2020 in rural areas. Georgia’s prisons have also deteriorated to the point that a comprehensive investigation has been launched by the US Department of Justice. instead of throwing more money at the prison systems, we need to address how to fix the problem before it becomes unmanageable. This starts with making sure teens and young adults are staying out of the criminal justice system and staying in the education system.