Governor Expresses Appreciation to Law Enforcement

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The 93rd General Assembly ended its fiscal session this week, and today I would like to commend lawmakers for their support of law enforcement in Arkansas.

The 93rd General Assembly was one of the most law enforcement-friendly sessions. Lawmakers voted to fund stipends, pay raises, new positions and equipment. They increased reimbursement to county jails for the care of state prisoners and allocated funds for the expansion of a jail in Calico Rock.

Lawmakers and law enforcement officials joined me at a table in the rotunda as I signed three bills that the General Assembly passed with unanimous bipartisan support.

The new laws were recommendations from a task force I created during the national unrest that swept the country following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in the summer of 2020.

At the time, protesters across the country were burning buildings in cities. Many have demanded that cities cut spending on police departments or disband them altogether.

When I introduced the task force, I made it clear that there would be no discussion of diminishing our support for law enforcement. The task force’s mission was to find ways in which the state and cities could support law enforcement. I wanted to make sure the officers were as safe on the job as humanly possible. I wanted to improve the relationship between police officers and their communities.

That’s why I signed 3 bills that support our police officers across the state. Senate Bill 103 grants a one-time $5,000 stipend to certified full-time city and county law enforcement officers and certified full-time Department of Services probation and parole officers state corrections.

The bill provides a one-time $2,000 stipend to certified full-time state troopers and other Department of Public Safety-certified law enforcement officers.

Officers who are employed before July 1 this year, or who are hired before January 3 next year, are eligible for the allowance. The bonus is a mark of appreciation for our current officers, and it is also a recruiting tool as we seek to hire excellent officers.

House Bill 1026, which became Bill 223, increases the average annual starting salary for state troopers from about $42,000 to $54,000. This increases the salary by over $11,000. The increase moves us up the neighboring state rankings from seventh in starting salaries to second.

Bill 223 also funds the salaries of five other Arkansas Crime Lab forensic workers to expedite testing of sexual assault kits, which must be completed within 60 days of submission.

Bill 225 includes funds to finance a jail construction project in Calico Rock. This is important to ensure space for those currently being held in our county jails.

It is also providing $10 million for body cameras, body armor and other equipment that will improve officer safety and build community confidence in their professionalism.

The government has no greater responsibility than ensuring public safety. We also owe it to our police officers, who risk their lives every day to keep us safe and to provide them with state-of-the-art training and the best equipment to keep them on the job and safe from their jobs.

Our support for law enforcement did not begin with the 93rd General Assembly, but we have certainly put an exclamation mark on our support this year.

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