Could Atlanta police officers see an increase in their salaries? It’s a possibility, as several city council members have proposed an ordinance to fund raises for the department.
The ordinance, which was put together by council members Michael Bond, Carla Smith, Dustin Hillis, Amir Farhoki, Marci Overstreet, Matt Westmoreland and Jennifer Ide, would authorize the city’s chief financial officer to amend the 2019 budget.
If approved, the CFO would reduce all general fund departmental budgets to fund “necessary salary increases,” the ordinance reads. The department budgets include the mayor's office and the Atlanta City Council.
This is a direct response to a market compensation assessment, known as the Mercer Study. The study compares APD to other agencies of similar size across the nation and shows APD’s pay is consistently lower than most peer agencies.
The council approved a 3.1 percent increase in 2019 for current officers, but if approved, the new pay increase could match what other agencies make in similarly sized cities.
The proposal comes just weeks after a current Atlanta police officer blasted the council for not moving forward with a pay increase - even though hundreds of officers have left the force.
Serving as the president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 623, Lt. Stephen Zygai said the Atlanta Police Department is down close to 400 officers, but they’re only hiring around 100 new officers.
“Almost 22 to 25 percent of our staff is gone,” Zygai said during a Sept. 4 council meeting. “You as legislators, are you going to make this a priority? Or, are you going to wait until it affects you and your families and it’s in your face? And then, you’re going to say we should have done something about it. Can we afford to lose more people?”
Over 100 additional officers could retire by the end of the year. Azygai said the shrinking police department might be understaffed for when more than 1 million people are expected to pass through Atlanta - during Super Bowl LIII. However, Mayor Bottoms told 11Alive that she has full confidence the city will be well prepared.
“We’re working with our state and federal partners, so we are not concerned at all about a shortage during the Super Bowl," she said. "This really is a layered-on effect when it comes to safety and large events and it’s really about a partnership and working with other agencies as well.”
Over 40 agencies have been working for months on a security plan for the Super Bowl, including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, FBI and Homeland Security.
In the meantime, the proposed APD pay increase ordinance heads to the public safety and legal administration committee on Sept. 25. If approved, it would head to the finance committee the next day, before possibly going to the city council and mayor for final approval.