One year ago, no one would have predicted that for the first time in years, Atlanta police would announce dramatic increases in applicants, new hires and re-hires.
Turns out, throwing money at a problem can sometimes produce the desired result.
Since Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ announcement last October that Atlanta Police Department officers would receive pay hikes of up to 30 percent, the city’s longtime struggle to recruit and retain cops suddenly subsided.
“It’s all thanks to the pay raise,” Deputy Police Chief Scott Kreher said. “For years we were finding ourselves behind the eight ball, but that’s no longer the case.”
Two thousand police officers, a pledge first made more than a quarter century ago by former Mayor Bill Campbell, no longer seems unrealistic. That benchmark was reached once before, in 2013, but a closer look at the numbers revealed troubling signs. Veteran officers were leaving APD at an alarming rate, replaced by recruits who demonstrated varying levels of commitment to the job.
As of last year, according to the Atlanta Police Foundation, 200 officers were leaving for every 100 officers hired annually. By last August, APD was down to 1,663 sworn officers. Nearly 400 authorized positions were unfilled.