A former Gwinnett police chief says training, poaching and pay are challenges to officer retention.
MARIETTA, Ga. — A former police chief in metro Atlanta said that police staffing shortages aren’t just an issue in Cobb County and that most police departments are trying to figure it out.
Marietta is suffering from a police officer shortage themselves.
“The years have not been kind with regard to pay for any officer in the city of Marietta but the senior officers have seen the worst of it,” said one officer’s wife.
Butch Ayers is a former police chief in Gwinnett County. He is also a member of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.
He warns that “poaching” from other agencies is making it hard to keep officers on staff.
“The departments and communities are trying to one-up each other to attract those officers because we’re all suffering from a lack of police officers across the state and actually the nation,”Ayers said.
Ayers said the problem is about more than pay — it’s also about the time it takes to train.
“It will take years to get the type of experience that helps them to become very effective. It might be six months to a year before they complete training and are on the road handling calls by themselves,” Ayers said.
In an effort to stop the bleeding, Marietta city officials said they’ve offered three pay raises over the last 17 months.
But one officer’s wife cautions that the city will keep hemorrhaging if it doesn’t match what other surrounding agencies are paying.
“It breaks my heart. It breaks my heart to see them go out here and risk their lives every day to keep the city safe and know that they’re not getting paid even close to what just going into Cobb County would offer them,” she said.
According to the city, the department is working to fill about 20 officer vacancies but stresses that the city is safe despite staffing levels.