May 18, 2022 - News

Atlanta police want more cash and more officers

Illustration of police lights shown through the shape of a police hat.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Atlanta Police Department is asking for $235 million to be included in next year’s budget to combat rising crime, hire new cops, and stave off the exodus of officers fleeing for better-paying jobs in the suburbs.

Here’s a peek at how they plan to spend it.

Driving the news: On Tuesday, Atlanta Police chief Rodney Bryant pitched his final budget to the Atlanta City Council.

The big picture: Homicides in Atlanta are up and violent crimes related to a small number of nightlife businesses remain a focus.

  • Like many police forces across the country, APD faces “significant” challenges retaining and recruiting officers and E-911 dispatchers.

Details: The upcoming fiscal year starts July 1, and APD’s ask is $4 million more than the previous budget. The department’s budget has risen by roughly $30 million over the past three years.

  • 86% of the spending plan would go to personnel. As of March, the latest month for which statistics are available, the force has 1,616 sworn officers — well below the 2,000 that previous mayors and chiefs have tried to hire.
  • The department is confident, however, that Mayor Andre Dickens’ goal of hiring 250 new officers is feasible.

APD plans to create a chief operating officer position to boost morale, address equipment shortages and help manage day-to-day operations.

  • The position is part of an effort to "civilianize" some aspects of APD leadership, Bryant said — a break from the department's practice of shuffling majors to different divisions and then up the ranks.

The intrigue: The department’s proposed budget for E-911 is roughly $150,000 less than last year’s spending plan. That drop comes at a time when call volumes are up and staffing is down.

  • The division can handle the decrease, APD brass said, thanks to increasing awareness about 311 and new technology that would route lower-priority calls to other departments.

What they're saying: Kamau Franklin of Community Movement Builders, a social justice organization based in Lakewood Heights, said other parts of the budget that could holistically improve public safety, like affordable housing, deserve more attention.

This story is part of Axios Atlanta’s partnership with Atlanta Civic Circle, Capital B*, Canopy Atlanta, and the Center for Civic Innovation to report on the city budget.

Follow along at #ATLBudget on Twitter and Instagram.

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