APD Nears Goal Of 2,000 Officers. So How Did It Get There? | WABE 90.1 FM

APD Nears Goal Of 2,000 Officers. So How Did It Get There?

Sep 27, 2013

Credit Atlanta Police Department / WABE News

For 13 years, the Atlanta Police Department has talked about the number 2,000 – that’s the number of officers it says it needs to be visible on the streets – and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says the department is just 20 officers shy of that goal.

“We’ve done this in the toughest time that the country has faced in 80 years,” Reed says.

So how did the city manage to add about 300 officers and give bonuses when it had lost about $100 million in revenue since the recession hit in 2008?

City Councilman Michael Julian Bond chairs the Public Safety Committee.

“When someone else wins in the budget, someone else loses,” says City Councilman Michael Julian Bond, who chairs the Public Safety Committee. “But to soften that blow, you look where you have efficiencies.

Bond points to the elimination of unfilled positions and cuts in the 2011 fiscal year to departments like Public Works and Planning and Community Development. That helped allow for 5 percent increases to the police budget in 2011 and 2013.

“We were able to open recreation centers, pools, and continue to aggressively fund and expand the police department to get to our goal of 2,000 officers,” says the city’s chief operating officer, Duriya Farooqui.

 Farooqui also points to pension reform undertaken in 2011, which she says saved the city about $25 million, and an $11 million federal grant to hire 50 officers during the recession, which expired in June.

“That allowed us to continue to aggressively hire officers,” Farooqui says.

But Bond also credits the previous administration of Mayor Shirley Franklin for its budget measures – including hundreds of layoffs and a property tax increase.

“They had to make some, really, draconian cuts and some tough, tough decisions that we haven’t had to face, but have benefited from,” Bond says.

But Farooqui disputes that.

“Many of the reductions that were made previously were restored by this administration,” Farooqui says.

But hiring was half the problem; APD also struggled to retain sworn officers, losing more than it hired yearly between 2000 and 2006.

To address the problem, the city raised officers’ salaries by 3 percent in 2010, and officers are set to receive another slight bump this year.

The Atlanta Police Foundation, the department’s fundraising arm, also has been chipping in to help officers pay for school and supplement housing costs, and it also helps the department pay for new technology. That helped reduce attrition from 6.2 percent in 2008 to 4 percent last year. 

APD says it hopes to reach the 2,000 mark by the end of the year.