On Monday, April 25, 2022, Governor Brian P. Kemp, joined by First Lady Marty Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr, members of the Georgia General Assembly, and local, state, and federal law enforcement officials, signed legislation to further public safety efforts in Georgia. The following legislation was signed at a ceremony in the Buckhead community of Atlanta:
- Gang Prosecution Unit Authority: HB 1134
- Enhanced Fleeing and Eluding Penalties: HB 1216
- Clarification of Penalties for Possession of Firearms by Felons: SB 479
- Clarification of Penalties for Possession of Child Molestation and Pornography: HB 1188
- Free Basic Law Enforcement Training Tuition for Former Armed Service Members: SB 358
- Extension of Peace Officer Annuity Benefit Fund to 911 Dispatchers: SB 84
- Registration Exemption for POST Certified Peace Officers: HB 1441
An excerpt of Governor Kemp’s remarks from the bill signing ceremony is featured below.
Most of all, I want to recognize and thank the men and women in uniform who have joined us this morning, representing law enforcement across different levels and agencies. On behalf of all Georgians, we thank you for going above and beyond in protecting us and our communities.
Roughly a month ago, many of us gathered like this to provide a one-year update on the multi-agency Crime Suppression Unit that is producing such great results in taking criminals off our streets, led by Colonel Wright and the elite men and women of our Department of Public Safety.
At that event, I spoke of the fact that public safety is the number one responsibility of government, and that the rise in crime that we’ve been facing in many communities across Georgia due to soft-on-crime policies and officials is unacceptable to me, unacceptable to our law enforcement, and certainly unacceptable to the people we serve.
With the creation of that Crime Suppression Unit, as well as the creation of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Gang Task Force, we’ve taken major steps in confronting street gangs and criminals.
Today, we’re taking another major step.
Here in the heart of Buckhead, which has been an epicenter of much of this growing crime, I will sign seven bills into law, all of them geared toward supporting the good fight by reinforcing our law enforcement officers, putting an end to revolving door justice, and strengthening the public safety organizations represented here this morning.
The first will be HB 1134, which paves the way for a Gang Prosecution Unit within the Attorney General’s Office. As we know, gangs do not confine their activities to one jurisdiction. When they traffic drugs, illegal weapons, and people, they don’t just stop at the county line. This makes it difficult to prosecute them appropriately, and up until now, the Attorney General hasn’t been empowered to go after them.
That changes today!
Modeled after the very successful Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, this legislation will enable Attorney General Carr to join with local prosecutors and serve as a force multiplier in removing these dangerous criminals from our streets and halting their illicit operations.
I will also sign HB 1188, which enables prosecutors to charge sex offenders with separate charges for each image of child pornography and each act of child molestation, so that perpetrators of these heinous crimes face proper justice and aren’t allowed to skate by with light sentences.
This legislation will also restrict high-risk sexual offenders from using social media to contact minors, so they cannot add to the list of their victims.
I will then sign HB 1216, which increases penalties for fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer by raising fines and sentencing minimums.
Under this law, a fourth offense will also be an automatic felony, and if aggravated crimes are also perpetrated while fleeing and eluding, that will also result in an automatic felony, ensuring that criminals will no longer treat this serious offense as a game.
No longer will street racers and reckless drivers be allowed to get off scot-free!
With SB 479, we will also clarify how charges are applied to felons in possession of firearms. When these bad actors have multiple illegal weapons on them, each firearm will result in a separate charge.
In short, this session we made it so that law-abiding Georgians can better protect themselves, while making things very difficult for criminals who often use illegal or stolen guns.
To grow our law enforcement workforce even more and bring further reinforcements into the fight, I will also sign SB 358, which provides for tuition reimbursement for former armed service members who enroll in law enforcement basic training. This will not only add to the ranks of skilled officers, it will also help these brave men and women transition easier when their service in the military has come to an end.
This morning, I will also sign two other bills designed to cut red tape, promote the recruitment and retention of law enforcement officers, and support first responders.
I also want to make it clear that these bills are not the only measures we’re putting into place to support our public safety officers and bring the fight to criminals.
In the Fiscal Year 2023 budget that I will sign in the coming weeks, we’re investing in an additional trooper school class, adding law enforcement and criminal justice degrees to high-demand career initiatives, and giving the hardworking men and women of state law enforcement who face danger on a regular basis a 5,000 dollar raise.
As I have said many times before, we will use every resource at our disposal to rid our communities of crime and keep Georgia families safe! And today underscores that fact.
As we do so, I will also continue to urge the judiciary to fulfill its responsibility and sentence offenders appropriately so they don’t end up right back on our streets.
Again, every single criminal in Georgia is on notice. They will find nothing but trouble and punishment in our state!
Georgia is the best place to live, work, and raise a family, and every single person here is dedicated to keeping it that way by stopping criminals in their tracks.
We’re going to keep chopping, keep up the good work, and go even harder in taking the fight to the street gangs and criminals!
As we do so, I ask everyone here and all across Georgia to continue to pray for the safety of our law enforcement on all levels. We should also remember their families who give and risk so much for their communities in our daily prayers.
May God protect them while they work to keep us safe, and may He continue to bless the great State of Georgia!