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Statement of Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields in response to AJC article on police recruitment

Post Date:11/24/2017 6:30 PM

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News-CALEA   Atlanta Police Department Public Affairs Unit
226 Peachtree Street, S.W., 5th Floor
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
 News-State

 

Contact: Carlos Campos
Director, Public Affairs Unit
apd-publicaffairs@atlantaga.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 24, 2017

 

Statement of Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields in response to AJC article on police recruitment

ATLANTA —  It’s a shame the AJC chose to focus on the problems, rather than the solutions, in an article (“Atlanta Police still struggling to recruit, retain officers,” Nov. 27) on the challenges the Atlanta Police Department is facing filling officer vacancies. 

Rather than cobbling together a piece based on a nearly two-month old Q&A with me on a wide range of topics and including sources outside the department unfamiliar with our recruitment efforts, I wish the author had taken the time to explore directly with me the many steps we are taking to fill these vacancies and produced a more in-depth piece. 

Nowhere in the story is there a mention of the Atlanta Police Department’s comprehensive and aggressive recruitment strategy, nor a mention that even despite the recruitment challenges, crime in the city continues to trend downward to lows not seen in nearly 50 years. 

Let’s examine some relevant facts: First and foremost, let’s be clear that Mayor Kasim Reed has made public safety a top priority of his administration since he took office in 2010. I have been proud to serve as his Chief of Police since December 2016 when he appointed me. 

The evidence of this focus is clear in that felony crimes in the city are down 33 percent since this time in 2009, just weeks before Mayor Reed took office. Armed robberies and auto thefts are down a remarkable 45 percent since then, and burglaries are down 62 percent. 

The sky is hardly falling.

It should also be noted that Mayor Reed is the only mayor in the history of the city to successfully reach the longtime goal of having 2,000 sworn officers on APD’s force, a number that’s been elusive since at least the 1990s. 

Further, since Mayor Reed’s inauguration in January 2010, public safety personnel and city employees have received eleven salary increases totaling more than $26 million in compensation. In January 2011, sworn officers in the Atlanta Police and the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department received a full step pay increase of 3.5 percent, the first full step increase granted since 2007. In 2013, sworn personnel received two additional pay increases, for a total of 5.5 percent in increases. In June 2016, the Reed Administration announced a pay increase for mid-career officers in APD and AFRD. 

It is true that the force has since seen a reduction from 2,000 in a very difficult recruitment environment that includes an improving economy, competition from new law enforcement agencies around metro Atlanta, increased public scrutiny on policing and high-profile attacks on police officers. 

In spite of these challenges, the Mayor has not rested in his dedication to ensuring that the Atlanta Police Department is fully-staffed. Mayor Reed engaged the City’s Human Resources department and corporate leadership through GE to ensure our recruitment efforts are as efficient and professional as possible, and that APD has an aggressive and comprehensive recruitment strategy so all 2,039 authorized sworn officer positions are filled. 

The strategy includes a marketing campaign that highlights APD as a best-in-class department filled with opportunity for growth, and recruiting beyond Georgia’s borders, as it has become clear the state’s pool of applicants is limited. 

This year, the Atlanta Police Department has interviewed 1,530 applicants. We have hired 91 qualified candidates – 40 of those new hires are from out-of-state, clearly showing the benefit of recruiting outside of Georgia. Of the 1,530 candidates interviewed, we have interviewed 617 candidates at recruitment fairs out of state. 

We have also held 39 recruitment fairs here in Georgia, including one on October 28 where we worked closely with our Human Resources department to hold a hiring event that was a ’one stop’ shop with candidate testing to help the candidates advance more expeditiously through the process. That one event netted 100 candidates, more than half of whom moved forward through four steps of the seven-step process. 

APD has rigorous standards for becoming a police officer, and we will not lower them. Candidates go through a seven-step process that includes criminal background checks, psychological examinations, drug screenings, physical tests, and other tests to ensure they are fit to wear the badge. 

We are supremely confident that we are well-positioned to fill the vacancies in the police department in 2018 and take the department to new heights, keeping the City of Atlanta’s position as one of the safest major cities in the nation and a destination for businesses, tourists and residents alike.

# # # 

Our mission is to create a safer Atlanta by reducing crime, ensuring the safety of our citizens and building trust in partnership with our communities.

www.atlantapd.org ~ twitter @Atlanta_Police ~ facebook.com/AtlantaPolice ~ youtube.com/AtlantaPoliceDpt

 

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