Oklahoma lawmakers announced new “Back the Blue” legislation Tuesday to offer increased support to police forces in the state.
State Rep. Kyle Hilbert (R) and state Sen. James Leewright (R) are leading an effort to increase pay for Oklahoma State Police, offer better retirement plans, compensate families when those officers are lost in the line of duty, and better support local police departments.
It is a hard sell during a time of national division, when race and police brutality are at the forefront of a heated conversation ignited by the killing of George Floyd by former officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department. Protests, both peaceful and decidedly not, continue across the United States, while politicians on both sides respond with diametrically opposed approaches to the issue.
Regardless of position, it is clear that signing anyone up to put the uniform is going to be a hard sell for the foreseeable future. “We have an aging workforce in law enforcement and as these individuals retire, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to recruit police officers for the last decade,” Hilbert said.
He and Leewright hope to turn Oklahoma into a place where the reward matches the challenge — regardless of the aforementioned contention. “If you’re a police officer in another state that’s not supporting you, come to Oklahoma, because we will,” Hilbert said. “I hope we show young men and women in Oklahoma that if you put blue uniform, we are going to support you.”