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Saturday July 31st, 2021 9:12AM

Georgia House speaker proposes 1K bonus for police, deputies

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's House speaker said Wednesday he will seek $75 million in the state budget to give each police officer and sheriff's deputy a $1,000 bonus, increase salaries for prosecutors and public defenders and bolster the capacity of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

New funding also will be set aside for the GBI to initiate investigations of suspected election fraud, Republican David Ralston said, adding that a related bill during the 2022 legislative session would allow the agency to launch such investigations without a request from another state or local authority. Some of the new funding will also be used to bolster mental health services.

“Today, I announce a significant investment in personnel and resources to keep our streets safe and our state a great place to live, to work and to raise a family,” Ralston said in a statement.

Ralston and other Republicans in the state have made violent crime in Democrat-controlled Atlanta a focus in recent months. In March, Ralston said he would appoint a committee to study whether the state should intervene in policing in the city.

At a legislative hearing this week about crime in Atlanta, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said he would include anti-crime proposals for lawmakers to consider this fall when they return for a special session to redraw electoral districts.

The Atlanta Police Department recorded 154 homicides in 2020, up from an average of 90 annually over the previous decade, and that increased pace has continued in the first part of 2021. Aggravated assaults, which can include nonfatal shootings, also have risen significantly, although not as sharply as homicides.

A third of the $75 million Ralston proposed would go towards the bonuses for officers and deputies. Of the remaining funds, more than $20 million would go to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and $10 million would go towards salary increases for state prosecutors and public defenders. Another $7 million is earmarked for additional crisis beds at the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability, Ralston said.

The bulk of the additional money for the GBI would be used to hire employees for death investigations, forensic services and several specialized task forces. The $75 million includes $3 million that Ralston previously announced to address crime in Atlanta.

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