Atlanta audit scrutinizes police department’s hiring process

Atlanta police investigate a shooting in October.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

caption arrowCaption
Atlanta police investigate a shooting in October.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Hiring standards are rigorous but in line with other cities

From January 2017 to September 2020, more than 12,000 people filed online applications to be an Atlanta police officer.

Of that pool, just 171 — less than 2% — joined the force.

That data point puts a spotlight on the stringent hiring standards used by the Atlanta Police Department, according to a new report from the city auditor’s office. Police officials say they will use the audit’s findings to make it easier for candidates to complete applications and submit information.

ExploreRead the city's audit of police hiring practices

The audit was started in response to concerns from City Council members about police recruitment in Atlanta. Following a summer of civil unrest and a rise in violent crime, dozens of Atlanta officers either resigned or retired. The crime wave also has put more attention on officer staffing and recruitment efforts; as of mid-April, Atlanta police employed about 1,640 officers or recruits, 400 lower than the “authorized strength” of the department, which is 2,046 officers.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has announced a plan to fund the hiring of 250 additional police officers.

ExploreIN-DEPTH: Atlanta’s violent summer coincides with officer exodus

“In three of the past four years, separations exceeded hires for Atlanta police officers,” Duane Braithwaite, an auditor for the city, told a City Council’s public safety committee Monday.

While APD’s hiring requirements are rigorous, they are consistent with Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council standards, and are similar to the processes that other police departments in metro Atlanta follow, the audit found.

But it found that some steps in the application process could be slowing down hiring. After applying, prospective officers must submit a “waiver packet,” which includes their contact information, references and employment, residential and financial history. They also must agree to a background check and fitness test.

caption arrowCaption
Atlanta police investigate a crime scene earlier this year.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

Atlanta police investigate a crime scene earlier this year.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

caption arrowCaption
Atlanta police investigate a crime scene earlier this year.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

Credit: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

Roughly 92% of applicants, over 7,000 people, who began the waiver packet failed to finish it, according to the audit, which recommended the police department work with the city’s human resources division to explore ways to make this portion of the process easier for applicants.

The police department largely agreed with the audit’s recommendations, which focused on how APD can use technology to communicate with and track applicants to expand the candidate pool.

For example, the audit also found the police department doesn’t use Taleo, the city’s online application system, consistently. From January 2019 to November 2020, the police department hired 88 officers who were never processed through Taleo, making it harder to track the applicants.

About the Author

Editors' Picks