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.
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The mayor’s decision to boost salaries followed a compensation study that found APD officers were paid well below the median rates of their law enforcement peers. The report, commissioned by the Atlanta Police Foundation, showed the city’s cops faced a lower floor, lower ceiling and a longer wait to advance in the ranks.
Atlanta city leaders learned their police pay is 20-percent lower compared to other metro Atlanta cities.
Bottoms earmarked $30 million aimed at making APD more competitive with departments in similarly sized urban centers. About 1,100 officers received the initial raises, leaving $20 million to be distributed over the next three years.
As of Aug. 20, APD has added 111 sworn officers to its ranks from the same date in 2018.
Kreher said he is most encouraged by the increase in retention. From 2002 to 2014, APD lost more than 1,800 officers. Morale sank even lower.
“Everyone’s trying to get out. If you’re a good officer, you’re leaving,” former Atlanta police officer Joe Layman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2015. Layman left APD earlier that year for a job with Aurora, Colorado, police. After 10 years in Atlanta, he was making just $44,000 — a few thousand dollars less than an APD rookie will make this year.
Back then, the department averaged 130 resignations annually. As of Aug. 20, Atlanta police reported 33 resignations, 25 fewer than last year.
“People are just happier,” veteran Lt. Steve Zygaj said earlier this year. “When you see someone at a strip club throwing $1,000 into the air — that’s how I feel every day.”
Atlanta Police Department by the numbers
Comparing Aug. 20, 2019, to same date in 2018
• Number of officers hired: 125 now; 71 then
• Number of officer applicants: 3,449 now; 2,050 then
• Re-hires (officers who left APD and returned): 13 now, with 8 more pending; 5 then
• Resignations: 33 now; 58 then
• Net officer gain: 81 now; 9 then
• Total sworn officers: 1,774 now; 1,663 then