ST. LOUIS – The shortage of police officers in America has gotten so extreme that it’s pitting city against city. The Atlanta Police Department is coming to St. Louis for a three-day hiring event, looking to lure new officers from our area.
It’s not sitting very well around here.
The Atlanta department’s flyer publicizing the event shows its starting yearly police pay of $52,865 is about $330 less than the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s starting pay of $53,196.
FOX 2 confirmed that St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones texted Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens to stop poaching our people.
Alderman Rasheen Aldridge Jr. (Ward 14) agreed.
“If it’s Atlanta down police, Nashville down police, or St. Louis down police, I do think it’s a little bit of trying to take away from a pot that’s already empty,” he said. “It’s crazy that they would be coming eight hours away just to try to recruit police officers when we need as many people as we need. We not only just start off better (with pay), but I think our benefits are probably better, too.”
Atlanta’s aggressive move comes in the wake of an alleged domestic terror attack on a police training center under construction there in March. About 22% of Atlanta’s police jobs were vacant at the time.
The St. Louis Police Officers’ Association, which represents St. Louis City officers, knows the feeling.
“Years of this rhetoric against police, this negative rhetoric against police officers, and you’re seeing the results of that,” Joe Steiger, the association’s business manager, said. “Everybody’s having a problem recruiting police officers. It’s an issue nationwide.”
Sources put the authorized staff for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department at 1,224 officers. As of last month, there are just 929 officers, a shortage of 295—nearly 25%.
The St. Louis County Police Department’s authorized staffing is 961. The department is currently staffed at 831, with a shortage of 130—about 14%.
“We should be trying to have a national conversation on what needs to be done to bring in more law enforcement and not try to take away from one area to give to another area,” Aldridge said.
Steiger understood Atlanta’s desperation and urged St. Louis to get more aggressive in hiring new officers. Between 300 and 400 officers hired during a blitz nearly 20 years ago are nearing retirement, he said.
“There’s a small window here where the department has to make up this ground. If they don’t do it soon, they’re going to get too far behind,” he said. “I don’t know how they’re going to recover. I don’t blame other police departments trying to recruit. What we’re doing isn’t working, so something has to change.”
Atlanta police have also held recruiting events in New York, Miami, Chicago, New Orleans, and Detroit, according to the department’s website.
The Atlanta event is Friday through Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Drury Plaza Hotel near the Arch.