by Scott McClallen
Michigan House GOP unveiled a plan to spend roughly $80 million to support local police departments.
The plan aims to counter the “defund the police movement,” House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Clare, said in a Thursday morning press conference.
House Republicans say the plan supports law enforcement, strengthens the criminal justice system and expands community policing statewide.
The legislators were joined by county sheriffs, local police officers, and representatives from the Chiefs of Police, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, and the Police Officers Association of Michigan.
“Local departments statewide are facing several long-term challenges that are getting in the way of quality police work and are threatening the future of this profession,” said Wentworth, a former military police officer in the U.S. Army. “At the same time, police are under the microscope more than ever before. We need to rise to the occasion and provide the help our local officers need to do the job and keep our communities safe.”
The plan includes multiple items to help attract new talent to the profession, develop the skills of existing police officers, and fund services like road patrols and community policing. The changes include the following:
- Tuition assistance for people considering the police academy
- A work-study program to give people an opportunity to consider a career
- Incentives for community policing
- Incentives for expanded use of body cameras
- Incentives for de-escalation training
- $10 million in resources to support police, corrections, firefighters, and other first responder’s access to mental health services
- A signing bonus for new officers
- State support for secondary road patrols
- State support for recruiting strong candidates into the academies
“This is just the first step,” said Wentworth. “House Republicans will continue to make support for our law enforcement community a priority, and we will continue to develop policies that help them do their job and improve our criminal justice system statewide. We want our men and women in uniform to know that we hear them. We understand the challenges they’re facing. And we are here to help.”
Today, the Michigan House is finalizing a supplemental budget bill that affects the ongoing fiscal year. Lawmakers will discuss the plan on the House floor as soon as this afternoon.
Gladwin County Sheriff Michael Shea told The Center Square if the package is signed into law, it would provide financial help to high-quality candidates so they can spend three or four months without pay going through the academy.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re married or not; you still have bills,” Shea said.
Arenac County Undersheriff D Mcintyre said going through the academy costs roughly $8,500 plus the financial loss of not working, and, if successful, this plan would help recruit and retain new officers.
For example, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said he has 75 open positions.
“It’s incredibly challenging to recruit people,” he said.
Matt Saxton, the executive director of the Michigan Sheriff’s Association, said this was the first pro-law enforcement package in the last five years that he’s seen.
Police Officers Association of Michigan Legislative Director Kenneth Grabowski said in his 40 years in law enforcement, morale is at an all-time low.
The plan doesn’t appear to have Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s support.
“My background is in military and law enforcement,” Wentworth told reporters. “There’s a lot of trust in the people I work with. The governor’s background is in politics… If I don’t have that trust, I don’t know where that leaves us at this point.”
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Speaker Jason Wentworth” by Michigan House Republicans.