$368.5 million, policy reforms provide needed resources for first responders
State Rep. Greg Markkanen today joined the Michigan House in approving an expanded plan to support law enforcement and public safety personnel and help them better protect the people they serve.
The measures, approved today with bipartisan support, include $368.5 million in funding and policy reforms to help first responders with recruitment and retention efforts, community outreach and equipment upgrades.
“Providing our brave first responders with the resources they need gives them greater ability to do the job – which is keeping people and their families safer,” said Markkanen, of Hancock. “This plan will attract top-quality candidates for openings in Michigan’s public safety sector – especially here in the U.P. – and ensure they want to stay here and continue to serve our communities.
“These are demanding jobs. We needed to step up and make a substantial commitment given the challenges our police, firefighters and emergency medical workers face every day.”
The $368.5 million supplemental appropriation is funded by one-time federal COVID relief and surplus state resources.
The revised plan is an even bigger commitment than the preliminary $80 million plan the House approved in May and the $250 million plan House Republicans unveiled last month. In the wake of the tragic school shooting in Oxford, Markkanen and House members provided additional funding for school resource officers to work proactively with students and families – raising the total allotment from $10 million to $50 million.
“This additional funding will allow more communities and school districts – including those across the western U.P. – to supply their schools with resource officers and keep kids safe,” Markkanen said.
The revised plan also adds more support for firefighters and EMS personnel, while maintaining its focus on public safety recruitment and retention, community outreach and equipment upgrades. A special focus is on recruiting law enforcement officers now working in other states to Michigan.
Markkanen noted there are nearly 4,000 fewer law enforcement officers in Michigan than during the 2001 terrorist attacks. There are currently hundreds of unfilled positions across the state, including several in the U.P., the second-term legislator said.
Pillars of the House plan include:
Recruitment and retention: The initiative includes $57.5 million for a ‘Move to Michigan’ recruitment plan to help local departments hire officers now working in other states. The plan ensures officers moving to Michigan will keep retirement benefits they’ve already earned in other states. Tuition assistance and grants to help offset expenses will make attending a police academy a more practical, affordable option for local law enforcement and corrections officer candidates. Local departments could receive grants to offer job shadowing and signing bonuses to new hires. Local law enforcement, fire departments, EMS agencies and corrections departments would get recruitment marketing support.
Public safety personnel who miss work because of COVID-19 quarantine could be reimbursed for lost wages and leave time. An additional $7.5 million would support mental health assistance for local law enforcement, firefighters, EMS personnel and other public safety officers.
Policy changes will allow local law enforcement agencies to pay for a new recruit’s academy tuition and enter a five-year employment contract with them. If the recruit leaves within that period they would be required to reimburse the agency for a portion of the training costs based on the amount of time spent with the department after their training is complete.
Other reforms expand the pool of qualified recruits, remove hurdles for returning officers and provide resources for part-time public service assistant positions to perform routine law enforcement tasks.
Strengthening bonds in neighborhoods and schools: The plan provides $10 million in grants for community policing initiatives shown to improve relationships between officers and people in the neighborhoods they serve. The mix of community policing and mentorship that make the Police Athletic League so successful in Detroit would be expanded in communities across Michigan with a $15 million investment.
Supplying essential equipment: More resources would be available for body-worn cameras and gear, narcotics team gear, communications equipment upgrades, local police K-9 units, and other essentials.
The plan now advances to the Senate for further consideration.
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