Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd once again called for additional help from commissioners in his report on the department’s year for 2017.
The report he provided to commissioners reminds them of the same problems brought up when the board sent County Attorney Brad McFall to talk to officers last summer. The reasons cited in the reported submitted at the end of January include poor pay, poor morale and the “constant rumors of being taken over by the Sheriff’s office” as some of the reasons why there are problems in the department.
Despite this, Dodd told members of the Public Safety committee that crime has generally remained flat for 2017.
The report stated that 186 felony crimes against persons were committed during last year, that broke down as 65 assaults, 44 aggravated assaults and 9 child molestation cases.
Three murders were committed during the year, though only two of them were recorded in the report. One of those the shooting death of Det. Kristen Hearne in late September while she was backing up an officer on a suspicious vehicle call. Hours after her shooting, the pair facing trial for her death Seth Brandon Spangler and Samantha Michelle Roof, are still awaiting arraignment so trial proceedings can move forward as the court first will handle a Rule 22 request for filming of the proceedings made by WSB-TV.
Dodd explained in a brief follow-up interview that her case was included in the total number of homicides for the year, but that information in the computer database that keeps up with police activity and reporting in Polk County hadn’t been completed by the time the report was finished.
Polk County’s other two homicides for the year included the shooting and stabbing death of Tammy Wolfe in April 2017, a case that has yet gone unsolved. There was the additional shooting death of Thomas Mills on November 2017 that ended in the arrest of Kevin Millsap, who was indicted earlier in the year on murder charges. Millsap came to Mills’ home to argue with another individual at the house when Millsap pulled out a gun and fired a shot intended to be threatening, but went through a wall and struck Mills in the head while he sat on a couch in the other room.
Felony crimes against persons also included 10 rape cases for the year, along with 22 identity theft cases.
Misdemeanor crimes for the year included 390 assaults and 30 cruelty to children cases.
Property crimes reported for the year totaled out at 920 total reported for the year when felony and misdemeanor theft, burglary and entering auto reports were all tallied together.
The total amount reported stolen added up to $1,427,461.00, while only $402,257 in property was recovered last year for victims of crime, or just 28 percent.
Dodd additionally reported only 57 drug arrests by his officers for the year, which he attributed to manpower problems since traffic enforcement isn’t as high a priority. County police officers in previous years had higher numbers of arrests due to the drugs found and seized during traffic stops.
The past year only saw 2,292 traffic citations issued out of 4,557 vehicles stopped, with only 46 percent of people pulled over by officers given a ticket for a moving violation. The rest were given warnings.
Dodd told the public safety committee that for the most part, crime was flat for the year compared to the figures generated in 2016.
The main focus of his report were on conditions his offers face in the field with lack of manpower and explaining why, including the amount of pay that officers receive in his department versus those who do the same work in neighboring agencies within and outside of the county.
Pay disparity starts with beginning salaries for officers, currently at $13.75 an hour compared to other agencies that start officers off at $15 an hour in the county, including Cedartown, Rockmart and Aragon police departments.
The Polk County Sheriff’s office starts their staff at $14.45 an hour.
Supervisor pay is also under what other agencies pay, with a corporal’s base pay set at $14.27 an hour versus that in Cedartown, which is $18.05 an hour. The positions aren’t available in Rockmart or Aragon’s police department, so comparisons weren’t available. A sergeant in the Polk County Police makes $15.76 an hour compared to $19.39 an hour in Cedartown, or a 5 percent pay bump for Rockmart Police officers. All Aragon Police officers are sergeants, Dodd’s report stated.
Additionally, the report also put forth problems with safety for officers since they don’t have adequate officers on staff at all hours for backup during incidents, having a larger and darker territory to cover, and morale within the organization as reasons why manpower is a problem.
The Polk County Police Department has an allotment of 40 officers, with 37 of those positions filled but only 30 officers on hand to work in the field. Dodd reported that three officers are currently in the Police Academy in an 11 week program, with an additional 12 weeks of field training required before they are available for duty.
Also, two officers are currently in the field training program, and a third has been called up for Army National Guard duty and won’t be available to return to duty until as early as 2020.
Dodd isn’t sitting back and doing nothing about the problems in his department. He cited a program of online postings about job openings within the County Police Department, recruitment from other agencies, the creation of a reserve program with residents of Polk County but work for other agencies currently including seven officers.
Officers are also being paid overtime to work additional hours, Dodd is helping respond to calls and take reports, Assistant Chief Kiki Evans is working in investigations and he plans to hold monthly supervisor meetings and at least twice yearly departmental meetings to address morale concerns and communications problems.
He also wants to increase the number of officers hired over the next six years, adding 18 to the force that would increase the number of officers available in patrol and the criminal investigation division, along with increases in pay.