ATLANTA (CBS46) - Despite a police shortage, the Atlanta Police Department is still bringing on brand new people to take on a very tough job.

As foot traffic starts to pick around the city due to the warmer days and the elimination of capacity restrictions, more police officers are also hitting the streets of Atlanta.

The department welcomed 15 new recruits on Friday, assigned to the “Foot beat” patrolling downtown.

“You actually catch more stuff and see more stuff on foot,” said Shunseere Kent, an Atlanta native. “You pay attention to everything.”

APD currently has 1632 officers according to its latest filled vacancy report. That’s about 400 officers short of the department’s “authorized strength” of more than 2,000.

Captain Antonio Clay attributes the shortage to several things including the ongoing pandemic, the civil unrest from last summer and the overall climate surrounding police- community relations.

“It was just a lot of stress and some people were like, ‘You know I’d rather do something else,’” he said.

With crime numbers year-to-date already climbing, Clay said recruiting officers remains a priority. However, he added the department values quality over quantity.

“We don’t just want to say we’ve got 2,000 officers and they’re not qualified with mental toughness or the unconditional respect we want to give to our citizens,” he said.

As for Kent, the rookie is hoping to make a difference.

“I was born and raised in the projects, so I was used to people saying, ‘F the police,’” she said. “I always wanted to know what it’s like on the other side. More than anything we need to bring communication back.”

If you’re interested in joining the Atlanta Police Department, click here.

Copyright 2021 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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