CLARKSTON, Ga. - The City of Clarkston has lost a number of police officers this year with even more looking to leave, in a bid to change that and find new officers, the city is set to give a big pay bump.
"This is our first step," said Clarkston Mayor Beverly Burks.
The price of protection is about to increase in Clarkston. The mayor announced Monday the starting pay for new officers will go from about $46,000 to just over $52,000 a year, a 12.5% increase. There will also be an 8% raise for all other officers.
"We will work very tirelessly to make sure our officers know that they are our priority here and whatever we can do to ensure that they know that Clarkston is a home for them to work, we will make sure we do that," said Burks.
Just last week, multiple officers took their frustration over low pay to the city council. Before Monday's announcement, the previous starting pay was much lower than surrounding agencies, some of which start at $55,000.
Hudson says her department should have 21 officers, but has lost six in the last few months with more now up for job at other agencies. That means Clarkston could be down to nine officers by July. While the department deals with a shortage, it plans to partner with DeKalb County Police to help out for the next six months.
"I worry every night when I go to sleep. I pray for these guys. Now, we're down to two officers per shift. You get one that gets an arrest, they're down at the DeKalb County Jail, that takes up probably an hour or so, then they're out here by themselves. We do have a good working relationship with DeKalb County [Police Department]. They come and help us we help them as well," Hudson told FOX 5.
"We've lost people, but it's not too little, too late," Burks said. "As I said, we are here. I'm committed to our police department."
The city says these raises come from money already in the budget. Clarkston also plans to offer sign-on bonuses of up to $5,000. The goal here is to be more competitive and raise morale. The mayor and chief of police say this is just the start.
"We're confident that come budget time, when we start looking at it, we can probably find some more money," said Chief of Police Christine Hudson.
Brian Medford has lived in Clarkston for nearly two decades. He says the police force here is special because officers know the community of 14,000. He says he is in favor of the raises.
"It has to be done, it really does," he said. "We can't go backwards and lose officers."
The mayor says the pay raises will start appearing on the June 21 paycheck.
"As leadership we will always make sure in doing those things that are important for our community, and it doesn't mean by just today that we're not. We will, and we continue to do," Burks said.
But some officers want city leaders to put their money where their mouths are.
The next city council meeting where the proposal could be discussed will be held on July 6.