DeKALB – More DeKalb police officers will be patrolling the streets, the DeKalb City Council decided Monday.
Aldermen unanimously approved a proposal from Police Chief Gene Lowery, allowing him to hire two more uniformed patrol officers. Lowery said the additional officers will help stem a growing amount of overtime and reduce the average number of calls per officer.
The addition means the department is allowed 65 officers.
Currently, the department has 62 officers and is in the process of hiring one more. In 2013, 62 officers handled 671 calls each, on average. However, Lowery said a bulk of the 41,598 calls the department received last year were handled by the officers on uniform patrol.
Mayor John Rey said the average calls per officer demonstrated the need for two more to work patrol.
“Looking at the volume of calls and that we’re higher compared to other cities, I think the council felt supportive of adding two police officers,” Rey said.
The strain on officers can be attributed to two things, Lowery said.
Seven officers have been taken off uniform patrol and reassigned to create other units in the past two years, including the enhanced resident officer program, the targeted response unit, the assignment of a task force officer and the addition of a community relations and training officer.
Creating more demand on patrol officers, an increase in violent crimes and mass gatherings in 2012 led the department to increase its minimum staffing levels for all shifts. As a result, the department had $337,154 more in overtime in 2013 than 2012.
The department had $755,098 in overtime in 2013, with a majority – $529,308 – coming from the patrol division. In 2012, the department had $417,944 in overtime, with patrol accounting for $256,735.
It will cost $160,076 in salary and benefits for two new officers, which was included in the budget for the fiscal year ending July 1.
Lowery explained keeping officers in the new programs while adding more uniform patrol officers also furthers the goal of making the department proactive rather than reactive.
He has plans for the officers’ schedules to be flexible and insert them into shifts that generate the most overtime.