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House GOP plan: $80M more for police, including to recruit

May 14, 2021 GMT

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan lawmakers on Thursday proposed an $80 million funding increase for law enforcement, including $47 million to help recruit and retain officers at a time the profession has been “beaten down” by anti-police sentiment, a top Republican said.

The proposed spending was added to a supplemental budget bill that was approved largely on party lines by the GOP-led House and sent to the Republican-controlled Senate.

Incentives would include maximum $2,000 signing bonuses for new officers, up to $20,000 in tuition assistance to attend local police academies and maximum $4,000 stipends during recruits’ training.

Other funding would incentivize the use of body cameras and community policing, in which agencies use relationships with community leaders to establish dialogues about needs and to identify residents’ concerns. Mental health support for police, other first responders and prison guards would be increased, too.

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House Republicans, sheriffs and police chiefs cited workforce attrition and recruitment challenges amid growing calls for police reform and a national debate over the deadly use of force after the high-profile killings of George Floyd and others.

“This profession has been beaten down in the media and by politicians,” House Speaker Jason Wentworth of Farwell said a news conference. “We’re going to support your retention, recruitment, mental health. ... It’s a big investment. It’s our initial investment. We’re going to continue this process of digging into what the root causes are.”

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said he supports policy changes to get “bad cops off the street.” But he said the vast majority of police are “doing the right thing every day. They need your help. They need your support. This package focuses on the things that make a difference.”

House Democrats said the plan would not spend enough, calling it a “cheap knock-off” of changes they have suggested. They unsuccessfully offered amendments, including one they said would ensure every state trooper is outfitted with a body camera.

“We need these improvements, not only for the betterment of our officers but to rebuild broken trust with the public,” said Rep. Tyrone Carter of Detroit, a retired sheriff’s deputy.

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with these supplemental dollars and, instead of choosing to support Democratic amendments, that would truly put these dollars in the hands of our communities, they are passing half-measures,” said House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski of Washtenaw County’s Scio Township.

But Wentworth said he expects legislators to look at long-term recruitment and other spending, not just one-time outlays.

“We’re going to continue this investment as we go forward, not just in the budget but in legislative changes as well,” he said.

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Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00