Gov. Nathan Deal proposed Thursday a 20% pay increase for state law enforcement officers and an overhaul of police training to include more courses on use of force and community policing, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The governor’s plan would cost nearly $79 million to hike the median salary of the roughly 3,300 state law enforcement officers by an average of about $8,000. It would also require four additional hours of annual training for Georgia’s 57,000 sworn officers and expand a program focusing on mental health crises.

“I am a firm believer that if we’re going to fulfill our obligation of keeping our citizens safe, we have to pay those primarily charged with that responsibility for those efforts,” Deal said in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s a step to recognize and appreciate their sacrifices.”

The hundreds of state law enforcement officers who surrounded the governor at a Capitol news conference Thursday shouted a collective cheer when Deal made the news of the proposed raise public.

The budget proposal would require legislative approval, but the governor and his aides are so confident of its passage that they plan to include the 20% raise in paychecks in January — even before lawmakers can vote on the changes.

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