Atlanta Police Foundation CEO David Wilkinson predicts crime will go up if police salaries aren’t significantly raised, more officers aren’t hired and put on the streets and more and better resources aren’t provided. But here’s a message for Wilkerson, new Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City Council: Crimes are already alarmingly increasing citywide.
Shootings are on the rise. Furthermore, police investigated 79 murders in 2017 but Atlanta is on a pace to surpass that total based on the number of homicides at the end of June. There were 42 murders this year versus 37 last year.
In this context, the Atlanta Police Foundation has released a disturbing study it commissioned on police pay and performance. It underscores that former two-term Mayor Kasim Reed failed to raise police pay (and thus morale) to reasonable levels. Left alone any longer, Wilkinson says, and the situation will be at “crisis level.”
But will it finally be addressed? Wilkinson claims he confident by saying Bottoms is “100 percent committed” to making the department’s pay competitive. Yet that would require $28 million, which Wilkinson admits could only be reached within the next three to four years.
Bottoms also concedes that the recent 3.1 percent pay raise for police officers is woefully inadequate. She tells the media that she’s ordering the city’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer to work with Wilkinson and Police Chief Erika Shields to develop a formal proposal for additional salary hikes.
A study by Mercer, a global consulting firm that specializes in compensation review, compared the Atlanta Police Department to 10 departments nationwide, including Charlotte, Dallas, Nashville, Boston and Phoenix, and four local and state agencies (Brookhaven, Alpharetta, Sandy Springs and the Georgia State Patrol). It found that APD’s pay for recruits falls 20 percent below the market ranges. That disparity holds true through the rank of lieutenant, the study revealed.
After pay hikes, though, the next priority is the hiring of new officers. The department is losing personnel at twice the rate of their peers, shedding about 250 officers annually. Wilkinson says Atlanta is recruiting only about 100 new officers annually– a figure that’s been basically consistent over the past three years. A “confidential” copy of the Atlanta Police Foundation’s police assessment can be found HERE.
An Atlanta police officer who asks not to be identified tells InsiderAdvantage: “Atlanta is popping right now, lots of building and movies etc. But we still have a reputation for excessive crime that hurts development. And then you see where $4 million is spent for dog stations at the airport and there’s just a small 3.1 percent raise for cops.”
Finally, there’s the issue of old and battered vehicles still in use, computer dashboard laptops that don’t work and worn-out or obsolete equipment. Police provided to InsiderAdvantage pictures of battered, high-mileage police cars that we reproduce below. Obviously this also isn’t great for crime-fighting morale.