Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens aims to hire 450 more police officers to get the agency adequately staffed and to meet the city’s community policing objectives.
To do this, he said the department should aim to hire at least 250 officers for the next three years, as well as try to improve the retention rates of current officers.
“That’s about where I think we’re short. And you’ll start to see and feel (improvement) at 250,” Dickens said.
Dickens explained that given the department’s current staffing levels, officers are not able to cover their patrols. He explained that some zones only fill 11 or 12 of their 14 beats. The staffing shortage is also putting undue stress on the department’s crime lab, and is hampering investigations.
Flanked by members of his cabinet, Dickens discussed several issues with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, including police staffing, community policing, housing and infrastructure.
While the mayor acknowledged that the Atlanta Police Department was still understaffed, he said the police are doing a good job clearing crime, and cited their 72% homicide arrest rate.
“The majority of the cases are being brought to justice, but again, I’m discouraged at the fact that there’s crime in the first place, that there’s this many homicides,” Dickens said.
Dickens said that most of the crime stems from gang-related issues, drugs and robberies.
Dickens’ plan to reduce crime still hinges on community policing, involving building relationships with local businesses and organizations.
“I want to do community-based policing, which means getting out of your car to go walk, and you can’t get out of your car if you’re already covering more ground in your car then you need to, or the beat was designed for,” Dickens said.
In order to boost community policing, the mayor said he is considering pay raises for police as part of the city council’s first budget cycle this summer. For reference, the city gave officers pay raises of up to 30% in 2019.
While other jurisdictions may offer more pay, the APD has the resources to offer a fulfilling career.
Dickens described the APD as a “robust department” that offers participation in foot patrol, mounted patrol, SWAT, the bomb squad or drug task forces.
The mayor said he is still considering whether to retain or replace current Police Chief Rodney Bryant.