Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill Friday that prohibits steep reductions in local budgets for law enforcement, preventing “defund the police” efforts to redirect money to services such as mental health treatment or education.
Prior to signing the new law, Kemp spoke in front of sheriffs at the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office gun range in Bethlehem. “As we all know, radical movements like the defund the police movement seek to vilify the men and women who leave their families everyday and put their lives on the line to protect all Georgians,” he said. “This far-left movement will endanger our communities and our law enforcement officers and leave our most vulnerable at risk.”
The law limits governments’ ability to slash police funding by more than 5% a year. Cities and counties can cut more than 5% if local revenues decline by more than that, and cities and counties with fewer than 25 officers are exempt.
One provision within the legislation allows cities to abolish their police forces and hire county-approved contractors if they can guarantee equivalent levels of safety. Local governments are also allowed to make larger capital expenditures for a year and not be forced to spend more.
The Republican governor’s legislation is a direct response to one of the demands protestors chanted as they marched through streets across the country last summer. Defunding the police is different from abolishing police departments. Activists are asking lawmakers to transfer some of the funds from massive police budgets to social services that can offer much-needed aid.
The Republican who sponsored the bill, Representative Houston Gaines, said lawmakers “won’t allow the defund the police movement to take a foothold in Georgia.” “Local governments should be hiring more officers and paying them more to fight a spike in crime. Listen, I support local control, but when you have local governments that are out of control, I knew we had to act,” he said. Gaines also mentioned that if local government’s break the law, they will face legal action.
No local governments in Georgia have followed through with proposals to significantly reduce police funding. Elected officials in Athens and Atlanta considered changing the way they funded law enforcement but ultimately decided against the proposals.