Proposed pay raises stir hopes among Ga. police agencies

Georgia House Bill 19 proposes increase in police pay, rural departments hopeful
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 11:46 AM EDT
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ATLANTA (WALB) - Georgia law enforcement agencies facing retention and recruitment challenges could be getting some much-needed relief, thanks to a bill in the state Legislature.

The bill allows a $4,000 pay increase for Georgia police officers. House Bill 19 also emphasizes paying higher reimbursement rates to health care providers and expanding opportunities to train new health care workers.

On average, Georgia police officers make approximately $40,000 to $50,000 a year. Their pay is based on market size and location. Research shows larger cities do make more money.

In rural areas, their base pay can sometimes be lower than that.

It’s not just about the money that causes police officers to leave. It’s also the pressure and mental challenges they face on the job. Chris Harvey, executive director of the Georgia Peace Office Standards and Training Council, says people are just retiring earlier than usual.

“Georgia is down about 7,000 police officers over the last several years. Everybody is having to work harder, longer under more difficult conditions. So, people are choosing to do other things, or more likely, probably choosing not to get involved in the first place,” Harvey said.

Harvey said when he began his career in the early 1990s, it was much harder to become a police officer because there was a larger pool of people wanting to join the industry.

“Today, we’re lucky to get three applications a month,” Edminsten said, thanks to the pay and other factors.

While pay is certainly important, Harvey says agencies are now looking at other retention incentives. He says agencies are also building a culture where officers feel valued, respected and supported while doing their jobs.

“Things like wellness programs, fitness programs, their hiring fitness trainers, nutritionist. They’re paying for training in self-defense,” Harvey said.