Atlanta police chief eyes strategies to keep officers

Officers continue to leave the department, but newly-tapped Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields has ideas for how to stop the bleeding.

At a graduation ceremony for new recruits Tuesday evening, Chief Shields said the Atlanta Police Department needs to do a better job of advertising the other employment benefits they offer.

“We don’t communicate to our new hires all of the benefits and perks that are available to them within the department,” explained Chief Shields.

Those benefits include increased pay for Spanish-speaking employees, tuition reimbursement and housing assistance.

Shields said Monday that she plans to roll out a pay increase proposal to Atlanta’s mayoral candidates later this year that would reward officers who stick with APD. In the meantime, however, she said one thing the department can do to retain officers is change how leadership interacts with them.

“We have to talk to them. We have to listen to them. We have to ask them, ‘How are you doing?’ If they’re having a bad day, pat them on the back,” said Chief Shields. “And I don’t I mean that condescending. I mean it’s a generational difference and it’s a good thing. I welcome and embrace the change, [because] these folks are bringing in some dynamic energy and their aptitude for technology is exactly what we need, but as supervisors, especially some of the ones who are a little more experienced, we really have to just shift away from the paramilitary mode.”

Chief Shields hopes to present her pay plan to the candidate running for Atlanta mayor later this year.

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