The Columbus Police Department is short about 80 officers despite ongoing attempts to boost the numbers.
Maj. Wanna Wright, who oversees the Bureau of Administrative Services, said the police shortage hasn’t reached a critical point, but it’s a problem the department is trying to address.
“Some of our specialized units don’t have as many officers in there as we would like,” she said. “We have officers covering their beats, and sometimes we have to have officers cover two beats. But I wouldn’t say we’re at a critical point. We’re steadily hiring. At the same time, we’re also losing.”
When asked what impact the shortage is having on investigations and public safety, Wright said the department continues to fulfill its duties. She said the response time is currently at 2.53 minutes.
“I don’t think it’s hindering us from solving any of the crime,” Wright said of the shortage. “If we had more people doing the investigation, could it be a little bit faster? I would think so. Would we like to put more people out on the street, answering the calls, and getting to the calls a little bit faster? Yeah.”
To address the issue, the department began accepting applications online this year, increasing the volume of applications by 300 percent, Wright said.
Sgt. Stefan Shelling, who oversees recruitment, said the department also has pushed its Join the Force for Good campaign on billboards, the city’s website, social media and job sites such as Monster.com. He said the hiring process takes three to five months, starting with an initial review of the application. In addition to a background check, it includes a physical test, state exam, polygraph test, psychological exam and interviews with personnel directors and command staff. There are currently 72 people active in the background investigation phase, according to Shelling.
But Wright said the department, which currently has 408 officers, is constantly trying to catch up.
“When we hire some, we lose some,” she explained. “So it’s like a seesaw, back and forth. During the month of October, we always have a lot of retirements. So far this year, we’ve seen 16 resignations. So we might hire six, and we might lose six.”
She said some people apply for the job and then change their minds once they learn what it entails. Others don’t like the hours.
“And some people, they jump from one department to the next department,” she said. “The Atlanta area may be paying more than the Columbus area. Once they get the experience, they’re eligible, and they’re a better candidate, they move on to Atlanta, Florida or different agencies.”
Columbus Police Department Salaries/Benefits
- High School or GED - $39,310.95
- Associates Degree - $40,215.70
- Bachelor’s Degree - $41,464.22
- Master’s Degree - $42,712.74
- $2,000 Signing Bonus
- $2,400 P.O.S.T Incentive (GA Peace Officers Only)
- 10 Days Paid Vacation Per Year
- 11 Paid Holidays Per Year
- Retirement Pension
- $1,000 Relocation Assistance
- $1,200 Military Service Incentive
- 13 Sick Days Per Year
- Take Home Car
- Full Salary while in Academy