By DAVID SIMPSON, DAVID MARKIEWICZ
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Even as backers of the Dunwoody cityhood push were telling voters that their modest proposed police budget would improve public safety while avoiding a tax increase, an internal task force was preparing a report recommending a much larger — and more expensive — police department.
The task force recommendation would increase the projected police payroll for the new DeKalb County city by more than $1 million. In a report dated Aug. 16, the group recommended cutting other departments’ spending to make the up the difference. That could be a challenge in an overall budget estimated at $18.8 million with a surplus of less than $300,000.
In an e-mail reply to questions from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Oliver Porter, operations consultant to the task force, said the new City Council, slated to be elected Sept. 16, will consider the recommendation.
“As in almost any budget, there will be competition for resources. … Suffice it to say that in many cases these will be difficult decisions,” Porter wrote.
Porter reiterated the contention, made by cityhood proponents before the July 15 incorporation referendum, that Dunwoody will have more patrol officers per shift than now provided by DeKalb County police.
The police task force was among 10 committees studying the delivery of services such as parks and recreation, roads, courts and zoning and planning.
The police task force report proposed small additions to the city’s patrol staff but major increases in other positions, such as detectives and managers, and also proposed positions not included at all in the pre-election proposal, such as crime scene technicians.
The Journal Constitution reported two weeks before the July 15 referendum that the city’s proposed police force of 28 officers would give it much fewer officers per capita than many other nearby cities and fewer than national averages.
That level of staffing was quickly dismissed in the report by the eight-member police task force of Citizens for Dunwoody. The task force, which began meeting in May, included at least five members with law enforcement experience.
“To suggest adequate police services could be provided with 28 officers is just not possible,” the report said.
Instead, the report recommended 38 full-time and six part-time officers, including some officers devoted to traffic. The report also called for seven civilian employees, including crime scene technicians and administrative assistants. No civilian employees were included in the earlier proposal.
The task force said its increased proposal still would not meet minimum staffing recommended by national police organizations, but it “will allow us to provide bare bones, but certainly adequate, services.”
Before the referendum, backers of cityhood accused DeKalb County police of neglecting their area. The county police force has three officers working “beats” in Dunwoody in each of three overlapping shifts per day. Dunwoody backers said those officers sometimes were diverted elsewhere and promised the new city would put four patrol officers on each eight-hour shift.
Porter’s e-mailed statement Friday said, “The new city will have improved police coverage, and the only question is how much better can it be made.”