ALBANY, Ga. -- Using a mix of grants, sales tax proceeds and a strong dose of fiscally conservative thinking, Albany Police Chief John Proctor presented a Fiscal Year 2012 budget request to Albany City Commissioners that trimmed more than $320,000 off its current budget figures.
Calling it largely a "hold-the-line" budget, Proctor told commissioners that his budget has just enough funding to support what he called the department's "widely important goals," which include improved cooperation and intelligence sharing with other agencies, increased neighborhood and community involvement, improvements in crime fighting efforts, and a renewed focus on crime prevention and deterrence.
"I think you'll find that this is a hold-the-line type of budget," Proctor said. "We are largely hovering around the same figure as last year."
Proctor told commissioners that a reorganization of the department's chain of command, which includes shifting many positions from supervisory posts to what he called line-level "boots on the ground," not only helped put more officers on the street but also helped to free up some revenue.
That reorganization shifted six lieutenant positions and four sergeant positions to street positions.
The department has also changed its shift schedule, extending the days from eight- to 10-hour days for uniformed officers.
Over the past year, Proctor said that the department has helped bolster or start 43 neighborhood watch programs, hired 43 new officers and witnessed a 7 percent drop in violent crime for the year ending Dec. 31, 2010.
But on the flip side, Proctor said officers had identified 10 new street gangs, made 151 gang-related arrests and identified 25 new gang members.
The department also reported a small increase in property crimes, he said.
Moving forward, Proctor said the department needs to continue to utilize special-purpose local-option sales tax, or SPLOST, dollars to fund its capital and technology expenditures to minimize the impact on the city's general fund.
Additionally, Proctor said that, while the Gang Unit and Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit are vital to the total law enforcement picture in Albany and Dougherty County, he would like for the commission to consider supplementing the APD's ranks with up to 25 new officers to replenish the vacancies in the uniform division that occur when officers are assigned to those specialized units.
"Those units are specialized units, and they take the whole focus and attention of the officers who are in them to operate the way they're supposed to," Proctor said. "I'd like for you to consider phasing in 25 officers over the next few years to help us make sure we don't lose any of our abilities to put boots on the ground, so to speak."
Proctor said that the department expects to continue increasing the amount of training for line-level officers through the ranks to supervisory positions and to continue to use technology to serve as a force-multiplier in the field and extend the efficiency of the officers in the department.