Lower ranking Sandy Springs Police officers will get an additional 15% pay increase, on top of the 5% increase approved for all city employees by the City Council during its Sept. 21 meeting.

Finance Director Toni Jo Howard brought the “cost of living” pay increases to City Council, along with other changes to the fiscal year 2021 and 2022 budgets. The added 15% cost of living increase was for sworn police personnel at a rank of sergeant and below.

The Sandy Springs Police Department Honor Guard carries the colors.

“We want to recruit the best, but we need to also retain our officers. We want them to stay longer than a few years. We want them to invest in Sandy Springs as their police department and their career,” City Manager Andrea Surratt said.

She said the city is finding a competitive market in hiring police officers. Other cities, particularly in North Fulton, are catching up to Sandy Springs paid compensation rate. The pay increases could ensure the city stays in the lead.

Command staff will receive a 5% cost of living adjustment along with other city employees, Surratt said. They will be part of the city’s review of its class and compensation plan that’s expected to be completed in January 2022.

“The biggest gaps that we have been experiencing are in the filling of police officer one and two positions. And so we’re trying to shore up that part of the organization,” she said.

The salary listed on the city’s online career center for a police officer one position (with active duty military service or law enforcement experience) ranges from $46,179 to $62,147. The police officer two position, which requires more law enforcement experience, ranges from $51,075 to $69,235.

“The market is going to dictate the changes in this profession, and I think … you’ll see this as a tide that’s turning nationally. And we want to be at the forefront, making sure we have the best employees for the police department,” Surratt said.

Councilmember Chris Burnett said he’s not sure there’s a better investment in economic development than investing in the city’s public safety.

He said they need to evaluate pay for police officers and firefighters frequently because he thinks it’s important for quality of life. 

“Our home values, our insurance premiums, and for all the businesses that are looking to perhaps come to Sandy Springs, if they know we’ve got the best public safety available then they’re going to put a circle around us when they’re considering relocating to our community for their jobs and their employees to live,” Burnett said.

Surratt said the market dictates when changes need to be made. In this case, the market for police officers got so tight that the city didn’t want to slip further behind. The last time a formal study was made of police and fire department salaries was in 2018 or 2019, before she arrived. The current compensation study is the most comprehensive the city has done, she said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.