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Cameron releases public safety plan in bid to unseat Democratic governor in Kentucky

Daniel Cameron speaking at the 2020 RNC (screengrab).
Daniel Cameron speaking at the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Daniel Cameron proposed awarding recruitment and retention bonuses to bolster police forces, part of a sweeping public safety plan unveiled Tuesday that calls for tougher penalties against drug traffickers found responsible for causing deaths in Kentucky.

Cameron, the state's attorney general, also proposed requiring that prosecutors pursue the death penalty against anyone convicted of murdering a police officer. He pledged to work with lawmakers to pass a wiretapping law to support investigations of drug- and gang-related crime. And he vowed to push for a standalone carjacking law aimed at a crime that he said has become more prevalent in Kentucky cities.

An overarching goal is to make Kentucky “the best place in America to be a police officer,” a Cameron campaign release said ahead of a news conference Tuesday. Cameron is challenging Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in one of the nation’s most closely watched campaigns in 2023.

Cameron referred to public safety as the "first responsibility of the government.”

“These initiatives directly address the rise of crime, drug trafficking and overdoses, and the need to retain and recruit officers in our state,” Cameron said in the release. “I believe they will have a direct impact on the safety of our citizens and the morale of our law enforcement."

On the issue of police accountability, Cameron said civilian review boards should be blocked from obtaining subpoena power.

Public safety has risen to prominence in Kentucky's gubernatorial campaign.

At an event last month, Beshear touted his crime-fighting record, noting he pushed for large pay raises for state troopers as well as increased training for police officers. During his term as attorney general, Beshear said, he prosecuted child sex offenders, cleared a rape kit backlog and combated senior scams. The governor says he will seek additional funding for police training and body armor to protect law officers if he wins another term in November.

Cameron responded Tuesday with his own detailed plan to combat crime and support law enforcement. If elected, the Republican challenger said the first budget he presents to lawmakers would include working to develop $5,000 recruitment and retention bonuses for law enforcement.

Cameron said Kentucky should follow the lead of other states in allowing murder charges to be filed against drug dealers who push deadly substances.

In pushing for a statewide wiretapping law to help combat drug organizations and gang activity, Cameron said it should include constitutional protections and judicial review procedures.

Another proposal in Cameron's plan calls for making changes to the state parole board to increase the vote threshold for an inmate's release and allowing the governor to remove board members. And he wants to require DNA collection from people booked for the most serious felony offenses, while including protections that automatically purge DNA when there's an acquittal or the charges are dismissed.

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