The VERY thin blue line - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

The VERY thin blue line

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November 18, 2005

Albany-- The Albany Police Department is in dire need of some good men in blue. With 35 vacancies, the most in decades, most patrol officers are having to work twelve hour shifts.

Patrol officer Terrance Bryant begins hour two of his twelve hour shift. "All the officers are pitching in to cover the shifts we're short on," he says. "Sometimes you have to work over and beyond your call of duty."

These days duty calls for working a lot of over-time and sometimes settling for one off day a week. Bryant says, "Towards the end of our shifts, we're mentally drained because of the amount of calls we're faced with, and the extent of the calls we have to go to."

Interim Chief Bobby Hooper said "This is a vary demanding job." Hooper has been interim police chief for less than a week. He says it's hard to recruit qualified officers. "If we get 100 applicants, we may have 15 maybe 20 that actually make it through the whole process: the background investigation, the psychological evaluation, the polygraph. Then you have physical agility test."

If an officer passes those tests, it takes as long as five months before they're working their own beat. The job, it's pay and it's dangers aren't appealing to most. "You're going to work nights, weekends, holidays and long hours," Hooper says.

Veteran officers often leave for higher paying, less stressful jobs in other areas of law enforcement. "They'll go on to the GBI, FBI, ATF - the federal jobs," Hooper said.

So with fewer officers on our streets, is the city safe? "You become ineffective when you can't meet the demands of the job, and the people you are serving," said Hooper.

Are we to that point yet? "It's not critical yet," he says.

Chief Hooper says APD continues to respond to calls in less than 10 minutes on average. But they must prioritize calls. "A shooting call or a burglary call is going to take priority over an illegally parked car."

Chief Hooper says even with a short staff, the police force is serving and protecting the people of Albany.

APD is continually hiring, and officers go colleges, schools, and job fairs to recruit. But most cities have the same problem, and are competing for the same potential new cops.

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