By April Hunt of the AJC
Even as the Dunwoody City Council reviews its 2009 budget Monday night, the main issue will be police service.
The council is expected to sign off on a projected $14.4 million budget at Monday night’s special meeting, with more than a third of the total for the new city to start its own Police Department.
As of last week, that $5.25 million proposal included pay for a 40-member force: 35 sworn officers at sergeant-grade or below for patrols and investigation, three lieutenants, a deputy chief and chief of police. Five civilians — an administrative assistant, crime scene technician, a property/evidence technician and two service representatives to help with records and the public — would round out the force.
“We are committed to developing a top-notch Police Department that interacts daily with the residents and businesses of Dunwoody,” Chief Billy Grogan said. “People need to see police cars out there.”
Increasing police protection from the current service from DeKalb County police was one of the main reasons that residents in the northern DeKalb city voted to incorporate earlier this year. Advocates of cityhood pledged that the city would be able to increase patrols.
Grogan appears ready to deliver on that promise. The county force has three officers working “beats” in Dunwoody, in each of three overlapping shifts per day.
A new city force would work just two 12-hour shifts every day. With the planned force, that means at least five officers on each shift, Grogan said.
“We are working it so that we’re able to put a little bit more officers out on the street, with the same manpower,” Grogan said.
Another concern is when those officers will be ready to go. When the council last week OK’d a deal to continue DeKalb police service for up to six months, members again insisted the city have its force ready to go by April 1.
Otherwise routine city business has been conducted in the shadow of hitting that mark. For instance, the council’s talk of insurance included several references of the need to insure patrol officers. Cost-saving questions for the budget included debates about whether the city should buy or lease its patrol cars, which it plans to let officers take home as a recruiting tool.
The latest plan calls for buying pool cars in the first year, since the city will not have the money to buy enough cars for each officer by this spring.
And the city will specify that only experienced police will be considered in its hiring. That will allow for just a month’s training, on internal policies and procedures, to get the department on the street by spring.
“It’s been a whirlwind of activity to meet that aggressive deadline of April 1,” said city manager Warren Hutmacher. “We know that we have to meet it, and we will.”
Monday’s meeting begins at 7 at Dunwoody United Methodist Church.