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APD under fire from Commissioner

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August 12, 2003

Albany - Nearly 90 Albany police officers have resigned since 2000. That number alarmed city leaders, so Monday they took their concerns straight to the Police Chief.

Now, it's turned into a blame game. The City Commission blames the chief. He blames them.

The Albany Police Department has 215 officers. But that number continues to drop. Since January, 17 officers have resigned or were fired.

Mayor Pro Tem Henry Mathis says retention problem puts safety in jeopardy. "Officers with just a few years of experience are training other officers, and that's not good for Albany's safety," said Mathis.

Mathis says officers are complaining to commissioners about bad morale and poor leadership. "Their chief complaints are that they aren't getting fair treatment, communication with the Chief is poor, and morale is low." And, Mathis blames the Chief.

In 1993, only nine officers resigned. And that trend continued until 1997 when Bobby Johnson was hired. That year, 35 officers resigned. The retention problems continue today.

So we asked Mathis if he thinks Albany needs a new Chief. He quickly answered, " That's up to the city manager. She's seen the numbers, and she knows the commission will hold her responsible for making good decisions."

Police Chief Bobby Johnson says it's hard to keep officers happy with low pay and poor benefits. "Recently, our employee health coverage went down and the retirement package changed for the worse," said Chief Johnson. "We can't keep officers from looking elsewhere when pay and benefits aren't competitive."

So, is communication the problem? "I'm sure sometimes what officers tell their supervisors doesn't get to me. Maybe there's a clog, but officers can come straight to me, the city manager, or the commission if necessary," said Chief Johnson.

Johnson says the force will try harder to make communication a two way street. No decisions were made Monday. The Public Safety Committee plans to take the issue to the full commission.

Posted at 4:30PM by kathryn.murchison@walb.com