Atlanta’s assistant police chief to head department amid national search

Atlanta’s assistant police chief will lead the department in an interim capacity as the city continues a national search for the agency’s next leader.

Darin Schierbaum, a 20-year APD veteran, will take over for outgoing Chief Rodney Bryant when he retires Wednesday.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced the appointment Tuesday morning during a news conference laying out the city’s “Summer Safety Plan.”

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

“He has the credentials and the experience,” Dickens said of Schierbaum. “Perhaps more importantly, he has the trust of his peers and the trust throughout the community of Atlanta.”

Bryant is retiring for the second time after a career with the department spanning nearly three-and-a-half decades. He took over the department during a tumultuous 2020 after the deadly police shooting of Rayshard Brooks. Then Chief Erika Shields stepped aside the following day and later left the department.

ExploreAtlanta police chief talks crime, morale ahead of retirement

Schierbaum, 51, joined the department in 2002 after more than a decade with the sheriff’s department in his native southern Illinois. He was valedictorian of his academy class and began his APD career in Atlanta’s Zone 5.

He was promoted to sergeant in 2007 and became lieutenant two years later, according to his biography on the city’s website. He rose through the ranks over the years, becoming captain in 2013, major two years later and deputy chief in March 2020.

He previously headed the department’s Community-Oriented Policing Section, served as assistant commander over the city’s 911 Center and oversaw the department’s training.

Schierbaum, a Midtown resident, said he looks forward to hitting the ground running in his new role.

“I live in this city, love this city and I have great respect for the men and women of our police department,” said Schierbaum, who is also the first openly gay man to lead the agency. “We have a lot of work to do building that trust back, but I’m excited. I want to give back to this police department that’s given so much to me.”

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

The transition comes as city leaders look to stem the surge of violent crime while attracting and retaining more officers.

Though homicides are up over the past two years, Bryant said last week that morale within the department has improved. More officers are joining APD and attrition appears to be slowing, said Bryant, whose retirement was announced in April.

“We have our ebbs and flows, but things are certainly getting better,” Bryant said. “We aren’t losing nearly as many people as we were a year and a half ago.”

As of Thursday, there had been 71 new hires since Jan. 1 and 154 since last July. There are 1,524 sworn officers in Atlanta’s ranks and another 137 recruits in the pipeline, but the department remains nearly 400 officers short of its authorized level.

APD leaders remain optimistic they can reach Dickens’ goal of hiring 250 new officers this year to alleviate the shortage and bolster the type of community policing he would like to see more of.

Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman praised the decision to name Schierbaum interim chief, saying the move would help attract new talent.

”Schierbaum has a lot of respect internally within the city within the force,” Shipman said. “Morale has been an issue, obviously, over the last couple of years. We’re in a recruiting mode; we’re trying to attract and retain. When you have good internal trust, that’s good for retention.”

On Tuesday, department leaders also laid out several initiatives for APD ahead of the summer months, which typically come with a spike in crime. The mayor said he plans to step up patrols in city parks through the use of officers on horseback and on bicycles.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Schierbaum said the department will also increase bicycle units along major thoroughfares in Atlanta’s Westside as he looks to increase community policing and improve officers’ relationships with residents and business owners.

“Not only is it an effective crimefighting tool, it is also the best way that we have to join partnerships with the community,” he said.

He also encouraged the city’s home and business owners to join Atlanta’s vast network of surveillance cameras and share their footage, calling the program the “21st century neighborhood watch.”

As for the ongoing search for a permanent chief, Dickens said he hopes to select someone by September or October.

Councilman Dustin Hillis, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, said the mayor made an “excellent choice” in having Schierbaum lead the department.

”In his assignments, he has always sought improvement through research and data-driven solutions, while also prioritizing community outreach, transparency, and communication,” Hillis said in a statement. “Even in this current interim role, I am confident Schierbaum will lead the department in a great direction.”