Georgia House Bill 19 proposes increase in police pay, rural departments hopeful

Georgia House Bill 19 proposes increase in police pay, rural departments hopeful
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 6:58 PM EST
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DOUGLAS, Ga. (WALB) - Georgia law enforcement agencies facing retention and recruitment challenges could be getting some much-needed relief. And it’s all thanks to a new bill that was proposed in the state legislature.

The bill allows a $4,000 pay increase for Georgia police officers. WALB spoke with both state and local police agencies who say anything that will help with keeping officers employed will be beneficial.

On average, Georgia police officers make approximately $40,000 to $50,000 a year. Their pay is based on market size and location. Research shows larger cities do make more money. Douglas Police Chief Shane Edminsten says, in rural areas, their base pay can sometimes be lower than that.

“Police officers are moving from agency to agency, chasing the dollar. The younger generation that we have today don’t really care about retirement. They are worried about today, and they will chase that dollar to go somewhere else to make $40 more,” Chief Edminsten said.

It’s not just about the money that causes police officers to leave. It’s also the pressure and mental challenges they face on the job. Chris Harvey, executive director of the Georgia Peace Office Standards and Training Council (POST), says people are just retiring earlier than usual.

“Georgia is down about 7,000 police officers over the last several years. Everybody is having to work harder, longer under more difficult conditions. So, people are choosing to do other things, or more likely, probably choosing not to get involved in the first place.” Harvey said.

Edminsten and Harvey both say when they began their careers in the early 1990s, it was much harder to become a police officer because there was a larger pool of people wanting to join the industry. They told WALB no one wants to work, and it’s because of pay.

“Today, we’re lucky to get three applications a month,” Edminsten said.

While pay is certainly important, Harvey says agencies are now looking at other retention incentives. He says agencies are also building a culture where officers feel valued, respected and supported while doing their jobs.

“Things like wellness programs, fitness programs, their hiring fitness trainers, nutritionist. They’re paying for training in self-defense,” Harvey said.

On Thursday, the full Georgia House is expected to debate the spending plan on House Bill 19 — the bill that would make this raise possible.