Even if it means raising taxes, it’s time to raise pay for public safety
July 03, 2014 01:37 AM | 1428 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print

In 2003, I was appointed to serve on Cobb County’s Neighborhood Safety Commission. The director of public safety at that time informed me that the group’s mission was to improve the quality of life of the residents of Cobb County by determining their public safety needs and then providing them with information and/or programs that will address those needs. The commission meets every month to achieve this mission and the meetings are open to the public.

Recently, because of health issues, I’ve had to step down after serving on the NSC for nearly 12 years and as its past chairman. During that period, I’m proud to say that the NSC addressed many public safety problems and helped design and cause a substantial number of improvements in the public safety of Cobb County.

As I leave, and before I completely fade away, I must make a final appeal to the Cobb County Board of Commissioners and the public to help solve a serious problem that has existed now for several years. The problem is that the Cobb County police department is the best trained and the best quality public safety department in north Georgia. As a result, our neighboring counties are hiring our police officers away with higher salaries faster than we can replace them. Our training of new officers takes time and money, and we are currently way under the minimum number of officers that are required to protect the current population of our citizens. At the current pace, it will be years before we have a sufficient police force. So how do we solve the problem? It’s uncomplicated. There is only one solution and that is to compensate our public safety personnel on every level with the best salary in north Georgia.

The reason why this issue hasn’t already been addressed and resolved has been politics and the county budget shell game. For unknown reasons, the county manager and the county commission chairman have both allowed this problem to intensify in recent years. Even though several directors of public safety have pleaded for them to address the growing depletion of our police officers, the problem still exists.

The first responsibility of government is the safety of its citizens. Our leaders in the county are derelict of this duty.

If the Board of Commissioners can find hundreds of millions of dollars overnight to bring the Braves to Cobb, we can easily find the money to put our police officers and public safety personnel on a high level where they belong. Cobb County Public Safety personnel are the best trained and quality people throughout the region and they deserve the proper compensation.

Even if it means raising taxes and facing the public for doing so at the next election, Chairman Tim Lee needs to raise the pay of our police officers to stop them from leaving and to provide the appropriate safety of our citizens. The chairman can and needs to find the money.

Joe O’Connor


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