Metro police agencies face double-digit staffing shortages

Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 7:03 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - While metro law enforcement agencies tackle summer spikes in crime, another challenge complicates some efforts - staffing.

Wednesday, the city of Atlanta announced officers will receive a $4,000 retention bonus, in addition to the 2% citywide cost-of-living increases proposed in Mayor Andre Dickens’ budget.

Overall, the total increase ranges from 5.9% to 10.25%, the city confirmed. Atlanta Police Department is not the only one offering up competitive hiring incentives.

“We have 28 openings,” South Fulton Police Chief Keith Meadows told CBS46.

South Fulton PD is far from alone in its double-digit shortages. Cobb, DeKalb, East Point, Fulton, and Roswell have all advertised openings across their platforms in just the past few days. It makes the pool for police officers that much more challenging.

“Where we [once] had 750, we’re looking at maybe only 70 to 80 applicants that you have coming in, and 5 or 6 of those might be suitable for law enforcement purposes,” Meadows explained.

The chief argues that exposed injustices, the pandemic, and the “great resignation,” are factors that make retention and recruitment efforts complicated. He has now raised the starting salary from $44,000 to $52,000 within the agency.

The average scale for starting salary in metro Atlanta appears to now range from $52,000 to about $60,000, depending on the educational background.

Sign-on bonuses are being hiked too. South Fulton PD has a $3,000 sign-on.

Over at Roswell PD, which has 12 openings, it’s offering a $4,000 sign-on. For Cobb County PD, where the agency faces 80 to 90 vacancies, the bonus is $5,000. The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office is looking to fill 66 positions and it has a $9,000 bonus.

Meadows adds that fewer officers can mean increased wait times for minor incidents. But while major crime soars this summer, officials across the metro say using the resources they have to go after gangs and repeat offenders remain the top priority.

“When we become focused on that small group of people, we’re very intentional about how we go out and send resources out to target those individuals.”