Cobb Public Safety improvements overdue but welcome
August 28, 2014 04:00 AM | 2668 views | 5 5 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to hopefully put to rest, at least for now, a public safety issue that has been festering for some time and which finally erupted early this year.

Then-Public Safety Director Jack Forsythe announced his resignation via a public letter Jan. 6 that stated the county police force was in “crisis” mode due to lack of resources and blistered the commission and County Manager David Hankerson for blocking his efforts to address those shortcomings.

Forsythe said the department was losing officers faster than it could replace them, was serving as an expensive training ground for officers who then would leave for better-paying jobs in neighboring counties and noted the department was hard-pressed to find enough detectives to work on homicides, gang investigations and “sexploitation” crimes.

The Commission promoted Fire Chief Sam Heaton to succeed Forsythe, and with the PD’s problems now front and center — and with most of those running for county commission this summer making public safety improvements their top issue — the commission slowly began addressing them.

The first small step was the decision in March to create 40 additional positions in the department and purchase 55 more police vehicles, still well short of what is needed.

Next was a report from Heaton early this month laying out a comprehensive plan for addressing the department’s perceived problems. The commission agreed Tuesday, via its vote to approve the county budget for FY15, to begin implementing the recommendations of that report. The new budget does not increase taxes.

The commission, first of all, agreed to bring the department to full staffing levels by hiring 232 officers by Jan. 1, 2017. The FY15 budget starts by including funds to hire three police captains, two fire marshals, an animal cruelty investigator, a crime-analysis coordinator and a senior crime-scene technician.

The budget will include money to buy 37 more vehicles and to train four classes of police recruits per year rather than the current two, thereby getting new officers on the street more quickly.

Another change will be the implementation of higher “shift differential” pay for those working less-desirable evening and night shifts. The budget includes $1.3 million for the cost of that change.

The budget also includes money for the costs of converting Cobb Police Precinct 3 in southeastern Cobb to a 10-hour-shift, four-day-a-week schedule by next May. South Cobb’s Precinct 2 has already gone to that schedule and the plan is for the entire department to do so by the end of 2016. The change translates to a four-day work week for officers and hopefully will improve officer retention.

Another change in that regard will be the earmarking of $12.3 million to expand the department’s take-home car program, although the funds for that would come not from the General Fund but from the hoped-for passage of the SPLOST referendum this November.

All told, the changes approved Tuesday should go far toward tackling problems the commission had allowed to go unaddressed for too long.

“I think it’s going to have a positive impact across the board on all public safety,” Heaton said after Tuesday’s vote.

Cobb has long had one of Georgia’s best-run and best-equipped public safety departments. The changes approved this week should go far toward addressing any recent shortcomings.

Comments
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Retired LEO
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September 16, 2014
The Braves deal should have included public safety. Amazing how the commission did not let the stadium go to the voters. And now SPLOST! It is obvious that public safety is not a priority. True take home car programs do work and save money. To have officer's vehicles at a secondary location defeats the purpose. I know, I had a take home vehicle.
anonymous
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September 01, 2014
Cobb citizens need only arm and train themselves to protect against criminals out to do harm. Rarely is a police officer going to be around to STOP a crime.

Cobb does not need more officers. They will only be writing more citations to citizens for victimless crimes...in order to beef up the county coffers. Mark my word.
Actually
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August 31, 2014
The current plan is only take homes for Cobb Residents (with the exception of those officers in units that require them to be called in to work like SWAT,STEP,Bomb Squad, Negotiators etc.) Otherwise officer's must park at the nearest Cobb police precinct or fire station to them. I am troubled as to how much these improvements depend on SPLOST. It seems to be an easy out for the commisioners the put the blame on the voters if the SPLOST fails and these improvements cannot be implemented.
Splost
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August 28, 2014
Unfortunately, the proposed Splost contains too much pork.
Agreed
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August 30, 2014
I agree, to much pork. Giving take home cars to cops who live two and three counties away using county gas and cars simply to drive home makes no sense. If they live in the county fine, otherwise no way I want to see my tax dollar driving in Paulding, Cherokee, Bartow, Polk, Fulton, Clayton and Dekalb where Cobb Officers live and drive all the way here to work.
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