DE lawmakers propose legislation for safer roads and communities
“Your most valuable resources are human resources. So, you need the people to help execute the plans particularly if you’re trying to do more in community policing,” Chief Johnson said.
Delaware lawmakers proposing House Bill 39, calling it a push to increase public safety.
It would establish the Expanded Protection for Our Communities and Homes Grant Program. “When the bill was heard in committee, there were agencies there from all over the state and everyone spoke highly of this because as they said this is something that always gets overlooked when marketing is something they need now more than ever,” State Representative Mike Smith said.
The bill would allocate a one-time $20 million in state funding to operate the program, providing law enforcement agencies statewide with additional resources to recruit and retain officers.
Lawmakers say they understand that some may be concerned with the sheer amount of money. “If you look at the Governor’s proposed budget. which is roughly $5.5 Billion and the largest in our state’s history, this small amount pales in comparison to some of the other large items. At the end of the day, when you’re in trouble who do you call?” Rep. Smith said.
Dover Police Chief Thomas Johnson says he supports the bill, as the number of applicants for his department are now at an all-time low. “I think I’m going to be in my third cycle in a row now where I’ll probably have more vacancies than I have qualified candidates to fill them,” Chief Johnson said. “And there are now gaps in our coverage and in our ability to address on-going attrition.”
With more individuals in uniform, the program hopes to then address growing crime concerns and rising traffic deaths seen across the the first state. “Pedestrian fatalities are up. I believe Delaware tied for a record for motor vehicle fatalities. Numbers we haven’t seen since the 1980s,” Chief Johnson said.
“I think the more opportunities that we have to bridge that gap create ways to law enforcement being more involved. That’s very important,” Rep. Smith said.
Each participating agency would get a minimum of $50,000 and they would have three years to spend the money. Funding could be used to market careers in law enforcement, increase wages, implement public safety focused programming, and more.
The bill awaits consideration in the House Appropriations Committee.