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Chief asks for raises to retain police officers

LAWRENCEVILLE -- In Gwinnett's 2013 budget, police department officials are hoping to add an intersection to its red-light camera program, a truck for code enforcement and another specialist in emergency management.

But the big need, Chief Charlie Walters told budget reviewers Thursday, is for a boost in pay to keep cops on the street.

Walters said the department is losing many of its young officers to the start-up police agencies in new cities, which promise higher salaries.

So far this year, a majority of the 33 officers who have resigned did it for money, he said, acknowledging that the upstart cities are openly targeting the county force because of its training.

"It's telling, when they are going to small agencies where they don't have the career opportunitities," Walters said. "The fact is, they've got to pay the bills."

Walters told the group, which included Chairwoman Charlotte Nash and six citizens picked to review the requests, that it takes 8.5 months to a year for a new recruit to be trained, costing $33,000 to $46,000 in salary costs alone to replace each out-going officer.

Like many businesses and other organizations during the recent economic crunch, Gwinnett County has not given its employees a raise since 2009.

While Walters said a 33 percent increase in the murder rate so far for 2012 likely could not have been avoided, since most are domestic or drug-related, he said a troubling 7.36 percent increase in robberies could likely be attributed to the police department's vacancy rate. In order to field all the 911 calls, he said, the county's crime suppression unit was disbanded.

In addition to filling the slots created by attrition, he told officials he would like to fill 25 officer vacancies the department had agreed to leave vacant in recent years to save money.

Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said the department's findings could help in retaining staffers in other departments, as Fire Chief Bill Myers mentioned a similar issue. She talked about studying the possibility of increasing salaries while possibly decreasing other benefits, since younger workers seems more interested in that perk.

"I understand, when you are barely scraping by with trying to buy groceries," she said, pointing out that a younger generation is less likely to stay with one job over an entire career. "This is a problem we are going to face across the whole organization in terms of loyalty."

Budgeting change

Unlike previous years, the police department's 2013 budget will be broken out over several funds.

While some money is expected to be set aside in the county general fund and the traditional funding from telephone charges for 911 and a small amount of grants from forfeited drug funds, the majority of the police funding will come from a special tax district commissioners agreed to in a settlement of a service delivery dispute with cities.

The district, which will encompass all unincorporated portions of Gwinnett and the six cities that do not have their own police forces, could bring in $90 million of the $115 million, Walters said, adding that the county must be careful next year when assigning a millage rate to the tax fund for the first time.

A small portion of funding from a development district, which will encompass on the unincoporated portions of Gwinnett, is expected to be devoted to the department's code enforcement unit.

Comments

roaads1 1 year, 7 months ago

They deserve every penny they get and then some.

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teelee 1 year, 7 months ago

But hey, we have baseball and a ghost town of an airport.

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CD 1 year, 7 months ago

Mrs. Nash: Please direct my portion of the property tax increase to Teepee. I prefer to retain control of my personal funds and direct them to endeavors as I see fit.

Although I do favor increases for the rank and file officers, I do so with the expectation that waste will be cut and those funds re-directed accordingly. It could be that a reduction in leadership is in order should you determine that the police force is run so perfectly that there simply is no low hanging fruit left to recover.

In the corporate world, we are tasked to constantly do more with less, do it better than before, and then turn around and do it yet again. I expect the same of the police force; I expect you to force that upon the department.

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FIREMATT 1 year, 7 months ago

sir, or madam, i will say that this has been going on in both the PD and FD side for the past 4 yrs. So I think that it is wrong of you to ask for what you did. I think it would be in your best interest to do a little research before you ask a dept. do be run like a corporation, because they're not a corporation, they're public safety!

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CD 1 year, 7 months ago

I expect leadership of county services to continually evauluate, identify, and reduce waste. I expect that more should be done with less. Tax dollars are a finite resource. I will not accept that all has been done that can be; that is never the case in any circumstance. I've been around the block a time or two and have yet to see a situation where more could not be done.

Mrs. Nash had best put her boots on a kick a few folks around.

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FIREMATT 1 year, 7 months ago

sir, or madam, i will say that this has been going on in both the PD and FD side for the past 4 yrs. So I think that it is wrong of you to ask for what you did. I think it would be in your best interest to do a little research before you ask a dept. do be run like a corporation, because they're not a corporation, they're public safety!

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budda 1 year, 7 months ago

Raises are long overdue. Officers have done their jobs through thick and thin, mainly thin. Calls for service have increased steadily and the loss of EXCELLENT officers to other agencies, some even within Gwinnett County is ridiculous. Gwinnett County provides the best trained recruits straight out of the academy than the other 158 counties within GA. It makes you think "Why do federal agencies as well as MANY other police agencies attend classes and utilize the Gwinnett County training facility" when GPSTC provides excellent training as well. The answer is that the training offered is excellent and thorough to say the least.

When officers are trained so well, it provides a better officer to citizens. Yes, some citizens will get citations for traffic offenses and such, but the officers are doing their jobs. Speed kills, maims and is one of the leading reasons for accidents....possibly just as much as TEXTING, WRITING EMAILS AND TWEETING while driving! Suck it up and slow down.

It makes perfect sense that other police agencies would recruit officers from Gwinnett County. It is easy to show prospective officers "The grass is greener on the other side of the fence" when they could go to these other agencies at up to 10,000 dollars more than they make doing the same job, if not more, every year. In addition, it is good business to get the best person for the job and why not get someone with some of the best training in the State! Other agencies are reaping the rewards, not Citizens of Gwinnett County.

Pull your heads out of the sand Gwinnett County Board members. Bad business decisions have been running rampant lately. This is one of them.

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docgreen1499 1 year, 7 months ago

I would much rather pay for their pay raises, which they deserve, than that wonderful trash plan they came up with a few years ago...

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Present_Tense 1 year, 7 months ago

I am here trying my best to show a great deal of restraint with the response from Chairwoman Nash. I have waited all day trying to think of the best way to explain this frustration, but it is not one that can be really explained, it must be lived through.

Chairwoman Nash, if her statement actually was to suggest that the hardworking, intelligent, and dedicated emergency services employees would be fooled by getting a quarter in their paycheck at the cost of a quarter from their retirement, she is poorly, poorly, mistaken.

As one of the 33 that left on my own accord this year, I can attest that my decision to leave was economic and not due to anything about the Department. I carried the badge with a great deal of pride, and served our community well. However, year after year, I have watched events such as tax increases, cost of living increases, but no pay increase.

Many of the benefits that we were offered when we signed with Gwinnett are either gone or drastically reduced. Try and take an unbiased mind and really think about this: cops die on the job -regularly-. Firemen walk into homes that are fully engulfed in flames. I know we signed up for this, but my question is, at what point during a perennial series of benefit reduction or stagnation do you believe that enough is enough and your own life is worth more than the compensation or gratitude that is displayed by your employer. Every person has their own price, so this question is rhetorical but also one to consider.

The trouble for the community is that while there is a great number of highly trained and dedicated officers on the coffers still, it is important to recognize that good cops are also being pulled to other agencies or industries. That means that Gwinnett is losing the one thing that cannot be purchased: experience. If your home is burglarized, or worse, if something violent should happen to you, do you want to know that seasoned pros are hot on the case? What is that worth?

Gwinnett sets a high standard for their emergency services workers. With high standards comes intelligence. Do not think we will be fooled by the lollipop when you walk away with our piggy banks. Furthermore, understand we have not asked for a dime more than what was already promised to us- that is another big item to realize. We aren't asking for raises and double vacations- we are asking for what was presented to us. And while I cannot speak for everyone, I can say that this is the best interpretation of many discussions that I have had with my fellow brothers and sisters in blue.

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ntstar4 7 months, 2 weeks ago

This article was last year at budget time. Now we have lost 38 more experienced officers and nothing done. When will they get the priorities right? It has been well known that Charlotte Nash is not Pro LE. That is a shame. We have a great police department in Gwinnett and it needs to stay that way. The loss of all of these fine officers is a problem that needs to be addressed and sadly it probably will not be this year. See how much good last years request did.

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