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Gubernatorial candidate Braun releases public safety plan

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Gubernatorial candidate Braun releases public safety plan

Feb 19, 2024 | 6:30 am ET
By Whitney Downard
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Gubernatorial candidate Braun releases public safety plan
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U.S. Sen. Mike Braun at an event for Republican candidates for governor in Carmel on Jan. 25, 2024. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

After more than a year in the governor’s race, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun released his public safety plan last week, part of his “Freedom and Opportunity Agenda,” calling for salary increases for public safety officers and a tough-on-crime approach. 

“Nothing is more important than the safety of Hoosiers. As governor, I will put forward a bold agenda to protect Hoosiers from violent crime, drugs and the dangers crossing our southern border. We will introduce initiatives focused on increasing support for law enforcement, addressing the fentanyl crisis and enhancing measures to protect our schools and children,” said Braun. “My proven track record in the Senate serves as a solid foundation for the ambitious public safety plan I intend to implement for Indiana, demonstrating my unwavering commitment to the safety and security of all Hoosiers.”

Aside from a raise for law enforcement, specific points included a system for replacing noncompliant prosecutors and a focus on drug trafficking.

Plan details

Braun’s plan didn’t include specifics about how much of a “significant” salary increase state troopers could see but his campaign specified that it would be in addition to recent raises enacted by the General Assembly. 

In the 2023 budget-writing session, lawmakers set aside funds to increase the starting salary for troopers to $70,000 and reform the pay matrix, responding to increased pressure from competing departments. 

Gubernatorial candidate Braun releases public safety plan
U.S. Sen. Mike Braun’s latest campaign ad focuses on border security. (Screenshot from ad)

“As governor, I will prioritize the enhancement of salaries and benefits for our law enforcement officers. We will introduce comprehensive pay reform that aligns state troops and local law enforcement officers with competitive standards, including cost-of-living adjustments, competitive salaries and comprehensive benefits,” Braun’s plan read. “My commitment is to ensure that Indiana becomes a model state for law enforcement compensation as a recognition of their invaluable contribution to our safety and security.”

Local law enforcement are not funded by the state, but rather their respective localities. 

The Indiana State Police would also have the responsibility of leading a state-wide drug interdiction strategy to address trafficking.

Braun’s plan also would establish the Office of School Safety, whose duties would include ones currently spread across the ISP, the Department of Education and the Department of Homeland Security.

And he called for the legislature to “empower the Governor’s office with the authority to remove and replace state-funded prosecutors who fail to uphold their duty to the community,” a process that the General Assembly has tried — and failed — to pass multiple times. 

Republicans have criticized Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears, a Democrat, for his policy of not prosecuting marijuana possession of less than one ounce but failed to come to a consensus about replacing the locally elected official or appointing another prosecutor to handle those crimes. An interim Prosecutorial Oversight Task Force tasked with studying the issue concluded without any solutions or recommendations after a single meeting.

Braun’s campaign pointed to models in states like Georgia or Florida, where the governor can make those replacements. Notably, the General Assembly discussion has not included whether the governor should make those replacements — though it discussed and dismissed a proposal to add that duty to the Attorney General’s Office.

Pushback to plan

Braun’s fellow Republican candidates for governor weren’t so impressed, pointing to a controversial measure he introduced to limit the practice of qualified immunity while in the U.S. Senate.

Doden, Braun exchange shots over qualified immunity, IEDC record

“Senator Braun’s so-called ‘public safety plan’ is little more than an attempt to rewrite history after his disastrous failed attempt to end qualified immunity for police officers via federal mandate. Badly burned, he now says he’ll protect qualified immunity as he dangles the promise of state police pay raises in a move so cynical it could only come from a Washington, D.C. politician,” Doden’s campaign manager Brian Gamache said in a statement.  

Braun pulled back his 2020 proposal after backlash from police unions and even Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, as detailed by Indiana Public Broadcasting.

In a lengthy rebuttal, the Brad Chambers campaign cited several examples of “contradictions,” adding in previously supportive comments Braun made about Black Lives Matter on top of qualified immunity. 

The release criticized Braun for spending “over 1,800 days in the U.S. Senate” without acting on immigration and accused him of prioritizing politics over a recent border deal.

“U.S. Senator Mike Braun’s decision to finally release a public safety plan is a welcome development, but reeks of the worst of Washington, D.C.,” Chambers’ senior strategist Marty Obst said in a release. “As you can read yourself, the plan is contradicted by his own words and actions, proving he’s no outsider, just another career politician who has betrayed us.”

Former Attorney General Curtis Hill similarly targeted Braun for his previous comments are Carlson’s show on both Black Lives Matter and qualified immunity, calling for the U.S. Senator to clarify his stances.

“Mike Braun’s support for Black Lives Matter and previous comments opposing qualified immunity should concern every Hoosier. If Braun wants to gain the trust of Hoosiers, we need to know exactly where he stands on these issues. We cannot afford to have someone who campaigns as a conservative but governs otherwise,” Hill said in a statement. “Hoosiers are hungry for proven conservative leadership with a track record (of) standing up and defending law enforcement — history shows they’re not going to get that from Mike Braun.”