COLUMBUS, Ohio — Governor Mike Dewine and Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted announced hundreds of millions of dollars in grant funding to fight violent crime in Ohio Monday afternoon.
The money will go to law enforcement and other first-responder agencies, specifically focusing on recruiting and wellness resources — both are areas that local police departments are struggling with right now.
It comes as the nation deals with a spike in violent crime while police officers are leaving the job in record numbers.
Northeast Ohio isn't exempt from the trends; Akron and Cleveland are seeing the highest number of homicides in a decade this year.
There's also been a surge in the number of police officers killed in the line of duty this year.
"This is clearly not the time to defund the police. This is time to fund the police and to fund them in a new and creative way that helps them protect us against the violent offenders," said DeWine.
The proposal would award $250 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to state and local first-responder agencies to counter increases in violent crime and to mitigate impacts to staffing levels and first-responder wellness caused by the COVID-19 pandemic according to the governor.
The proposal devotes $175 million to support the work of state and local law enforcement to prevent and solve crimes in communities that have experienced an increase in violence or have faced difficulties combating violence during the pandemic. The plan would specifically support peace officers and criminal justice partners with efforts such as multi-jurisdictional collaboration, focused-deterrence policing, and gunshot detection technology. Funds would also be used to develop programs to give law enforcement easier access to ballistics technology and to help eliminate evidence testing backlogs at Ohio crime laboratories and coroners' offices that have increased because of the pandemic.
A total of $75 million would go toward supporting the resilience and recovery of first-responder entities that have faced new challenges and stressors brought on by COVID-19. The proposal focuses on helping first responders confront pandemic-induced stress and other trauma by supporting the development of localized wellness programs and suicide prevention training that address mental health issues unique to first responders. New recruitment and retention efforts would also receive funding to help restore pre-pandemic workforce levels. Initiatives would include basic training tuition assistance, explorer programs to engage high school and college students interested in first responder careers, and community-police relations efforts to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the public.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness says more law enforcement officers die by suicide than in the line of duty, and reports of depression, PTSD and burnout are higher than the general public. Part of that burnout is due to a lack of employees, with a significant increase in officers retiring or resigning between 2020 and 2021.
News 5 told you how several police departments in Northeast Ohio are having a hard time recruiting new officers - including Cleveland, East Cleveland, Akron, Mentor, Cleveland Heights, and the Lake County Sheriff's Office.
If approved by the Ohio General Assembly, the $250 million would be awarded through grant programs operated by the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.
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