New data shows real strength of the Atlanta Police Department

The Atlanta Police Department has an authorized strength of more than two thousand officers.

New data show the city is at least twenty percent shy of that goal.

The exact number of full-time officers available for duty has long been a subject of debate.

One way to get to approach an accurate number is to examine how many police department handguns are issued. Every "active duty" officer, including all management, must go to the range and qualify every year.

At the end of 2020, the police academy listed 1,447 guns in the hands of officers. An additional 214 weapons were in the hands of retired officers and officer candidates, or recruits had 105 city-issued service weapons.

The last two categories deserve closer examination. While the city typically lists every recruit as being a part of overall manpower strength, those officer candidates have yet to earn a badge and cannot respond to 911 calls.

Some will graduate but some will not.

The middle category (retired, part-time cops) includes individuals who were brought back on contract for a year. But also, many of those officers "give back" a couple of weeks to the city every year and may help out with public safety by working a special event, like a march of dimes walk.

The body count, available for roll call, has dwindled. It is something Chief Rodney Bryant is watching closely.

"If we have to, we can pull from our administrative staff," Bryant said, "so our citizens are never in danger."

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is lending her voice to a stepped-up recruiting effort.

"It is not ideal," Bottoms said, "we would like to have more officers."

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