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Police force suffers from low pay

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

FOREST PARK — Police Chief Dwayne Hobbs told the Forest Park City Council Wednesday his best officers are being lured away by better-paying municipalities.

Hobbs told council members during his budget meeting the city can't compete with newly-formed, wealthier communities such as Sandy Springs and Milton.

"Sandy Springs stole two detectives, Milton got one of my more experienced officers and the Secret Service got a better detective," he said. "I can't blame them if they can get more money somewhere else."

The police department's proposed 2013-2014 budget reflects a $224,210 variance from last year's salaries. Hobbs said the department has 11 vacancies, including four officers who would be dedicated to patrolling Fort Gillem once the former Army base transfers completely into Forest Park ownership.

"Right now, there's not enough to do out there," he said. "We're watching for breaches along the fence and for scrappers trying to steal scrap metal. There's a single point of entry that requires a code so that's easy enough to control."

City Manager John Parker said it will be close to another year before the property will warrant a more active police presence. Hobbs said the situation as it is is manageable.

"We're overlapping zones 5 and 3 to get patrols in there now," he said. "Our officers are getting familiar with the trails, there are lots of hiding places out there. At one time, there were people living in the woods. We're keeping a close eye on it, we can handle it pretty well because there is no traffic or calls for service."

Mayor David Lockhart appeared alarmed at the notion of overall reduced police protection.

"Of all the possible functions a city can do, personal protection should be priority one," he said. "If we have to find cuts, we have to find cuts. Either we gave you $200,000 too much last year, which I doubt it true, or you're going to feel that reduction of $200,000."

Hobbs agreed that losing funding hurts.

"Any cuts sting," he said. "But we looked at what we could forgo and still do the job without breaks in service."

Hobbs said, depending on the officer's experience and qualifications, starting salary at his department would need to range from $40,000 to $50,000 to get the "cream of the crop."

However, he hedged talk of using higher salaries to lure better-qualified officers in favor of using the same money to keep ones who are already employed at Forest Park.

"It gets to be dicey," he said. "We need to start on the inside rather than go outside."

Lockhart offered it could cost about a half million to make that happen and asked Parker's opinion.

"The only thing I have to say is whatever we spend, we must also bring the money in," said Parker.

Hobbs heads a department of 89 sworn officers, 14 communications employees and 12 administrative positions. He anticipates it will take about $9 million to budget police services during 2013-2014.

The last budget meeting was Thursday at 6 p.m. The proposed budget can be accessed and commented on in writing through the city's website. Public comments on the proposal will be heard June 3.

Comments

OscarKnight 11 months ago

........More Proof that we should begin placing more demands for our State Legislators, in Clayton County, to begin supporting our Self Defense Bills. Our Law Enforcement is leaving for greener pastures.

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OscarKnight 11 months ago

....If the higher end upscale communities are willing to pay the price for Police Protection, in order to preserve their peaceful existence. Forest Park sits on the northern end of Clayton County, and borders with South Fulton County, South DeKalb County, Riverdale, and Morrow. Many of our crimes are cause by others crossing over to our city, and other bad elements moving in. The bad elements are lured by low rent housing and the lack of police, in other words, Forest Park is an open community and no protection is guaranteed. The only public shooting range, in Clayton County is located in Forest Park ( as been for over 25 years ).

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OscarKnight 11 months ago

........Regardless what many might think, our Police can't be everywhere at the same time; I understand this well known fact, this is why I have always embraced our Self Defense Laws. .....Which brings me to this :

Please show us where one single State Legislator, from this county, during the last ten years, voted yes to any Self Defense Bills submitted by other legislators in our State ? I will be waiting for an answer. about a minute ago · Like..

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OscarKnight 11 months ago

...By The Way; Ask Chief Hobbs where he currently lives, and how long.

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