Thursday, July 13, 2017

Former Chesnut Elementary student provides outstanding community service as a Dunwoody Police Officer but could he live here today?

Yesterday something crossed my desk that I thought I would share.  I saw a tweet by the Dunwoody Police Department honoring the fact that Officer Castellanos was raised in Dunwoody and attended Chesnut Elementary just blocks from my home.  Unsure of where Officer Castellanos lives today, knowing the caliber of our staff and seeing his beautiful family, I wish he was my neighbor as I believe he should have the opportunity to live back in Dunwoody.   Having police officers available locally is a benefit to the Department and the Community, especially in times of emergency or extreme weather.

The Dunwoody Police Department has a great benefit package for our police officers and we have very high standards for those we hire but the starting pay for a new officer is just above $40,000 therefore living here in town would be very difficult.  With new cities coming on board police salaries across the state have raised therefore Dunwoody works hard to hire the best entry level officers we can find but we need to continually evaluate our benefits package against other departments to set recruitment & retention strategy. 

One of the benefits of being a Dunwoody Police officer is that every officer gets his own take home police vehicle whereby the city pays for the fuel to & from work. Though I agree with this policy, it is also detrimental to encouraging officers to live locally therefore at the start of the city we also pushed for a local residential stipend, currently at $300 per month for those officers who live within the City Limits.  In our budget discussions this year, besides over all salary, I will be looking to have the local stipend raised, will question out of pocket financial costs of the officers and will look to increase tuition reimbursement.  

As a City Councilman, I am always proud to witness a new officer being sworn in to the Department but the churn or turnover of officers leaving for other departments makes me question if we have the right policies in place and I take that responsibility very seriously.  We currently have openings available to be a Dunwoody Police Officer and if you are interested, please apply.

Finally, the City of Dunwoody offers a police explorer program for those teenagers in the community who would like to learn more about becoming a police officer and I highly recommend the program as we need more locally grown officers on the force too.  Thanks for allowing me to serve.  John


Jason Mayberry said...

John, I think a city residential stipend is a great idea. It important for our police officers and the department generally to be seen as members of the community. And this helps with making the department a more-integrated part of the community (our entire community). I would assume that having an officer live in an area also deters crime. And I fully support raising the stipend further, so as to make Dunwoody more affordable to our hard working city servants.

Have you thought about letting officers continue to take vehicles home if they live in the city? This might have a deterrent effect while still encouraging officers to live within the city.

John Heneghan said...

Jason, if Dunwoody officers lived in town they would still have a police vehicle and would still be able to drive from home to work therefore they routinely park that vehicle where they live. At the moment we have several officers living in apartment complexes and the vehicle is parked there but my goal is to encourage those vehicles to someday be parked in a driveway near you.

Steve Woodburn said...

My son also grew up in Dunwoody, was part of the Explorer program and was a DeKalb police officer for two years before joining the Dunwoody Police department just shy of two years ago. He lived in Dunwoody and worked as a courtesy officer at a local apartment complex, but when he decided to buy a townhome he was not able to find something in his price range. I understand why sports and entertainment figures make millions however it's sad those who protect our lives and teach us, earn so little. I'm afraid that will never change and I don't begrudge whatever benefits police get to encourage them to live locally or the fact they get a take home car. Thank you to those first responders and teachers whose careers make us all better people.