Stimulus money targeted to bring on 30 new officers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Stimulus money targeted to bring on 30 new officers

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The Albany Police Department is applying for federal stimulus money to hire 30 more officers to patrol the streets. If approved, the grant money will pay for the salaries and benefits for those officers for three years, then the city will be required to pick up the tab for at least one additional year.

According to a formula based on the number of calls to police, the organization APD will still be understaffed, but the grant just may give them the springboard they need to get up to speed. By that formula, the city is short by more than 100.

 "We are in desperate need of the officers," said interim Chief Wilma Griffin.

There were 155,000 calls for service in 2008, and for that many calls, 198 patrol officers are needed. Today, there are only 53 sworn beat officers.

Commissioner Bob Langstaff said, "This is just a great opportunity to get our staffing up to where it needs to be."

APD Chief Wilma Griffin brought the board of commissioners a grant proposal today requesting 10 officers be funded with federal stimulus dollars, but commissioner Bob Langstaff didn't want to stop at 10.  He suggested bumping it up to 30.

The first three years pay and benefits would be taken care of by stimulus money, local taxpayers would have to pick up the tab after that, but Langstaff believes it's a price people are willing to pay. 

He said, "I think the number one thing people want in this city is to feel safe. Having officers on the street is not the solution to everything, but it has been proven that the number of officers on the street, actually deters crime, so our numbers for calls for service should go down, the more officers we have on the street."

There is no guarantee to how many officers the city will be approved for, but more officers means more safety for citizens and for officers. "It gives us more officers on the street to answer calls and to back up our officers and the citizens will be more relieved because they will see more officers on beat."

The application is due April 14th. Once it's submitted, the city will wait to see how many positions are approved. In the meantime, they'll work to fill the 19 vacancies the department currently has.

The commission also approved purchasing an automatic vehicle locator for public safety units. It will show the exact location of every police and fire truck, how long they are in certain areas and could help improve response times. That system should be in place by the mid-summer. It will cost almost $600,000.

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