Dunwoody Police officers could see a boost in pay and more incentives next year as city officials look for ways to retain and recruit qualified officers.
The move comes as police departments throughout metro Atlanta face increasing difficulty in recruiting officers while also working to ward off competition from big raises at neighboring departments.
During the Dunwoody City Council’s annual retreat on Feb. 8, City Manager Eric Linton explained that news of Brookhaven approving a significant pay raise for most of its officers created a “buzz” at the Dunwoody Police Department.
“Brookhaven has new pay ranges for their police department. That’s something we want you to be aware of, but not panic,” Linton told council members. He acknowledged there is some concern some officers would want to transfer from Dunwoody to Brookhaven.
Brookhaven officers, sergeants and lieutenants saw a boost in salary by about 13 percent and the maximum by about 6 percent. That means the lowest pay for a rookie officer jumped from $42,406 to $48,500. And officers already on the force got a raise based on their years of experience in policing.
In Dunwoody, rookie officers with a high school degree are paid $44,567. Those with an associate degree receive $45,817; an officer with a bachelor’s degree is paid $47,067; and a master’s degree rookie gets $48,317.
Dunwoody officers with three years of experience are paid between $45,458 and $49,208, depending of education level. An officer with six or more years of experience with a master’s degree earns $51,990.
Those most likely to leave to go to another department is at the officer level, Linton said. Other council members said it was important to also watch what other cities, such as Sandy Springs, Chamblee and Doraville are doing to recruit more officers.
The council agreed that next year’s budget should look at a pay increase for some officers, but also consider providing more benefits such as a bigger hiring bonus, increasing the housing stipend from $500 to $700 a month, more pay for officers who speak Spanish as well as the potential of increasing retirement benefits.
Chief Billy Grogan, who did not attend the retreat last month, said in recent interview that the news of Brookhaven’s pay increase had no bearing on his decision to recommend looking at more benefits for his officers.
“Most of these issues were already being discussed as part of our recruitment and retention efforts and before Brookhaven happened,” he said. “But when that happened, it became part of the conversation.”
Retaining and recruiting officers is challenge for departments across the country in today’s climate, Grogan said.
Because the country is enjoying a good economy, it becomes harder to find people who want to be police officers, he said. A few officers who have recently left the Dunwoody Police Department went on to jobs outside law enforcement, he explained.
The shooting in 2014 of Michael Brown, a black teenager, by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson, Mo., police officer, is also having a lasting affect on recruiting officers, according to Grogan.
The shooting sparked riots in Ferguson as protesters chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot” and the police response criticized by many across the country.
The use of social media also spurred a nationwide response unlike any other police incident before, he said.
“Support for police ebbs and flows,” Grogan said. “Ferguson was a new phenomenon because of social media.”