Atlanta police make 20 percent less than other metro departments, study says

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ATLANTAChannel 2 Action News has obtained a copy of an Atlanta police pay report that shows pay for Atlanta officers is 20 percent lower compared to other metro cities.

Atlanta city leaders had just learned about the drastic difference in their police pay.

Channel 2 Action News has reported about how many Atlanta police officers have left the department for better pay in places including Cobb County, where they can instantly get a $2,000 to $4,000 bump in pay.

City officials told Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston that one of the first things they have to do is fix the pay structure, but it will come at a price.

“I was a little bit surprised it was as low as it was,” Atlanta Police Foundation President Dave Wilkinson said after reading the new 47-page report. 

That report showed Atlanta police officers make 20 to 30 percent less money than officers in the metro area and similar sized cities across the country.


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It said base pay for an Alpharetta police officer with a few years of experience was more than $51,000 a year.

Tampa, Florida officers made about $69,000 a year for the same amount of experience.

Under the same conditions, the report shows an Atlanta police officer makes about $45,500 a year.

“In many cases, when Atlanta police officers were topped out at their police rank, (they) weren’t even at the lowest levels (compared to the) starting rank at another city. That was the one takeaway that surprised me more than anything,” Wilkinson said.

That 20 percent gap in pay was across the board, from new recruits to high ranking officers.

The report also said Atlanta loses 12 percent of its officers a year — double the national average.
So, what’s the plan?

Wilkinson said officers should receive more money, but the change to be gradual.

“If the mayor wanted to do this tomorrow, it’s $28 million. Well, that’s a big lift because there’s not $28 million there to do it with,” Wilkinson said.

Atlanta City Councilman Dustin Hillis is the chairman of the council’s public safety committee. He wants more pay but also said the city should give officers take-home cars and housing vouchers.

“Sandy Springs is never going to host the Super Bowl,” Hillis told Huddleston. “Our officers put in a lot of work, and deserve, in my opinion, to be the best-paid police department in the Southeast.”

Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields said she plans to work with the mayor to develop a formal proposal for additional pay raises.

The city gave officers a 3 percent pay raise in the past year.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms sent Huddleston a statement saying the study will provide a guide on how she can do more.



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