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Commission approves police hiring bonus

ALBANY -- The Albany City Commission tentatively adopted a measure that would allow the Albany Police Department to grant hiring bonuses of up to $3,000 to entice experienced officers to join the department.

Police Chief John Proctor told the commission at its work session Tuesday that the money would come from funds within the department that were currently unused and would have no impact on the city's general fund.

According to Proctor, the incentive program is similar to programs currently used by police departments throughout the state, including those in Athens, Valdosta, Columbus and Macon.

The incentive program allows for up to one $3,000 lump bonus to be given to officers who come to Albany and meet certain guidelines and restrictions, including benchmarks for experience and a requirement to stay with the department at least three years.

The APD is currently down 43 positions department-wide, Proctor said. That number will be cut by almost half on March 1, when Proctor says he will hire 21 officers. At least nine additional vacancies were added in December when the department was awarded stimulus funds to hire the additional officers.

"The hope is to, as we fill holes, to look at the department and restructure the organization," Proctor told the commission.

Proctor is considering thinning the number of supervisory positions currently within the department to get more boots on the ground in the streets, he said.

"We are targeting Georgia certified officers and the bonus is not intended for those who go and come back just to get the bonus," he said.

After a question from Commissioner Roger Marietta asking about recruiting efforts at the local colleges and universities for criminal justice majors, Proctor said that the scope of the department's recruiting strategy includes efforts at Albany State, Darton, Albany Tech, Georgia Southwestern State and other universities throughout the region.

Proctor said he believes that the program will likely have a shelf life of 18 months and that he "hopes to be standing before this commission soon saying that we're at 100 percent strength."

When Proctor arrived in May, he inherited more than a dozen vacancies in the department.