COLUMBUS— Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted recently announced details of a new proposal that would invest hundreds of millions of dollars into initiatives to protect Ohio’s citizens from violence and support first responder resilience and recovery.
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.
Governor DeWine and Lt. Governor Husted announced details of the plan Monday, Dec. 6 in partnership with members of the Ohio General Assembly, law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, and other first responders.
“Since taking office in 2019, we’ve made significant investments in new tools and technology for law enforcement, and this is a tremendous opportunity to do even more,” said Ohio Governor DeWine. “Our proposal would direct hundreds of millions of dollars into innovative initiatives that will protect our citizens and support our first responders who put their own lives on the line to help others.”
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 combatting 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.
Scioto County Sheriff, David Thoroughman, said the money is much needed.
“The pandemic has put a strain on the Sheriff’s Office resources and personnel, as well as all of the other first responders within Scioto County,” Thoroughman said.”There are many advancements in prevention and detection technology that these funds would assist with.”
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.
The proposal also puts a focus on technological resilience by supporting projects that boost communications, information sharing, and cyber security by addressing gaps identified during Ohio’s emergency response to the pandemic. This includes efforts to protect critical infrastructure for local and state partners through education and outreach and by developing response capabilities.
“Our first responders are regularly working shorthanded, due to pandemic,” said Thoroughman. “I believe that it is important that law enforcement and our community have a strong relationship, this proposal dedicates funding towards those efforts. I applaud the Governor for his efforts with this.”
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.
“All of the law enforcement agencies in Scioto County are having difficulty in recruiting and hiring candidates,” said Thoroughman. “This proposal would help with those efforts as well as training and retaining candidates.”
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.
Reach Darian Gillette at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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