Kemp plans to sharpen anti-gang penalties, limit no-cash bail

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Gov. Brian Kemp unveiled a slate of public safety policies on Monday that includes pledges to crack down on gangs, create a loan program to boost the ranks of law enforcement officers and steer judges toward issuing cash bail in certain instances.

His agenda sharply contrasts with Democrat Stacey Abrams, who has promoted many of the policies she pushed in 2018. Her platform includes a call to decriminalize low-level drug offenses and a push to eliminate cash bail in some cases.

Echoing his 2018 anti-gang platform, Kemp would increase the penalty for recruiting a minor into a “criminal street gang” from five years to 10 years. He also would launch a new database aimed at sharing organized crime details that he promised during his last bid for office.

Another proposal would require judges to consider a defendant’s criminal history when issuing “own recognizance” bonds, a form of bail that doesn’t involve any payment. And he wants to ban judges from issuing those bonds to defendants with a history of failing to appear in court.

As part of a broader initiative to target human trafficking, Kemp would double fines for businesses that violate state law requiring them to post information aimed at potential victims of the crime. That years-long effort is led by Kemp’s wife, Marty Kemp.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

In a second term, Kemp wants to create a loan reimbursement program of as much as $20,000 over a five-year period to recruit and retain 800 law enforcement officers seeking higher education coursework in the field. It echoes an initiative promoted by Georgia House leaders.

A similar program geared for prospective medical examiners would provide reimbursable loans of up to $100,000. Only about half of the state’s 19 medical examiner posts are filled, which factors into investigative delays.

Kemp’ s public safety platform has decisively shifted from his GOP predecessor, Nathan Deal, who embarked on an eight-year overhaul that steered more nonviolent offenders from prison cells to treatment centers.

But his agenda – along with the volleys of ads painting Abrams as soft on crime – reflects a national Republican strategy to highlight crime-fighting measures and capitalize on some voters’ fears about their personal safety.

Abrams has countered with a plan to hike pay for corrections officers, community supervision officials and Georgia State Patrol troopers. She would also order a revamp of police training to address an “erosion of trust.”

Her campaign on Monday called Kemp’s plan a “tired retread of policies that have failed time and time again to lower crime.”

“It’s no surprise that Georgia under Brian Kemp is struggling to recruit law enforcement after he called base pay for officers ‘bad policy,’“ said Abrams spokesman Alex Floyd. “Stacey Abrams has a plan to lower violent crime and invest in our law enforcement — and she didn’t wait until 26 days before an election to tell Georgians how.”