One of Georgia’s top law enforcement officials is calling on Georgia lawmakers to increase taxpayer-funded pay and benefits for state law enforcement employees.
Georgia Department of Public Safety Chief of Staff Maj. Joshua Lamb told members of the Senate Retirement Security for Georgians Study Committee on Thursday it is “mandatory” to increase pay to recruit and keep current law enforcement employees.
Lamb said the department has a 22% turnover rate and annual job applications have decreased by 60% over the past three years.
“The traditional salaries associated with law enforcement are no longer effective, as the rhetoric and animosity towards the police increases, so does the salaries that must be paid to someone to come into and stay in this profession,” Lamb said.
The state launched the study committee to assess employee compensation and retirement benefits. Legislative members plan to take their findings to the entire General Assembly when it convenes in January.
Lamb said the DPS has the lowest number of troopers it has had in the past 24 years. He said the new wave of anti-police sentiment across the country exacerbated hiring and retention issues for the DPS.
National protests erupted over the killing of Black Americans in summer 2020, leading to calls to reduce law enforcement funding. As a result, the DPS lost 87 troopers in 2020. It cost the state $7.8 million.
The agency must pay for the training, screening and onboarding of recruits, even though a majority of them do not make it through the entire employment process, Lamb said. The state also must pay hefty retirement packages to long-term employees who leave.
“We’re now not only having a tough time getting them in through the front door, but an equally tough time preventing them from leaving out the back door,” Lamb said.
Lamb said the agency accelerated trooper training, loosened uniform and appearance requirements and increased starting salaries by more than $10,000, but it has not been enough to attract ample recruits.
“If we expect someone to come into this job and face down the fear of having their lives destroyed or being killed in the line of duty, they’re going to have to be paid a sum that justifies that risk,” Lamb said.
Other agencies leaders also expressed their retention woes Thursday. Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Tyrone Oliver said about 70% of employees leave the DJJ within six months.
Gov. Brian Kemp and other state officials announced a plan Monday to give one-time $1,000 bonuses to law enforcement officers and other first responders from federal aid. Georgia also gave one-time $1,000 bonuses to full-time state employees who make less than $80,000 annually in fiscal year 2021. Officials said Thursday there is an alarming number of state employees receiving public assistance in Georgia.