Gov. Whitmer: Spend $75M of pandemic rescue funds to reduce crime

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday proposed spending $75 million in federal pandemic rescue funding to reduce violent crime, calling it a critical issue that must be addressed amid double-digit percentage increases in several Michigan cities.

The framework, if enacted by legislators, would allocate additional funding to hire more police and, she said, ensure they are paid and trained well. She mentioned a pending initiative designed to urge officers to live where they work and called for new spending to bolster law enforcement recruitment and diversity, including with expanded scholarships and financial incentives.

Other facets aim to get illegal guns off the streets, partly by addressing a backlog of firearms cases in the courts, and to expand job and education opportunities so people avoid retaliatory or other violence.

“Every Michigander, no matter where they live, no matter who are they are, no matter any aspect about them individually … they all deserve to live freely and safely,” the Democratic governor said during a news conference at Detroit’s Farwell Recreation Center. “Unfortunately, that’s just not true for too many communities across Michigan right now and disproportionately not true for Black Michiganders.”

Whitmer’s proposal is her latest as she and the Republican-controlled Legislature consider how to spend $6.5 billion in discretionary COVID-19 relief funds. It comes after the House in May approved an $80 million funding increase for law enforcement proposed by GOP lawmakers. It is pending in the Senate.

The governor pointed to rising violent crime rates, nationally and in the state, during the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. homicides were up 20% in 2020. In Michigan, violent crimes rose by 12% and homicides by 36%, she said. Violent crimes were up 12% in Detroit, 28% in Lansing, 42% in Sterling Heights and 50% in Grand Rapids.

“This is not unique, but it is a problem. And we are working together to address it,” said Whitmer, adding that it should be approached holistically because there is no “silver bullet.”

She was joined by officials, including Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the city’s interim police chief James White and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

“The governor and the mayor understand that just taking guns off the street is not going to work alone because there will always be guns to replace them. But global solutions and collaborations will reduce crime,” Worthy said. “I’m extremely excited that these discussions are happening.”

Whitmer spoke the same day her potential Republican opponent in the 2022 governor’s race, ex-Detroit Police Chief James Craig, blamed Democrats for the public safety “crisis” and created a team to propose legislation to bolster law enforcement.

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