Nearly a dozen applications received after LPD pay increase discussions began

Published 9:15 am Saturday, June 24, 2023

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Just days after the LaGrange City Council voted to officially increase police officer pay to aid in recruiting and retention, Police Chief Garrett Fiveash says it’s already working.

On Tuesday, the council approved the FY2024 budget, which includes an increase in starting pay for LaGrange Police officers to $60,000. Current officers will also see an $8,000 raise to keep their salaries equitable.

City Manager Meg Kelsey said current officers will see their pay increase on their first checks after July 1.

Fiveash said there has been more interest since the LaGrange City Council began discussions of increasing the starting pay and upping current officers’ salaries.

“We’ve got several in the process of coming back, both from outside and some folks that are coming back to the police department that left the PD before and went to the sheriff’s department,” Fiveash said. “I’ve had several calls. In fact, I’ve had a couple of kids that I taught in Trooper School that are one and two-year Troopers that have called in and asked questions. Nothing concrete, but there have been more inquiries,” Fiveash said.

During the city’s budget work session on May 23, the council began the discussions to significantly increase officer pay. Since then, the department has seen an increase in applications.

Capt. Karen Sanders said the department has received 11 applications over the last 26 days.

Sanders said they haven’t officially hired anyone yet because new officers have to go through a hiring process with tests and interviews. She said the process begins with a report writing exercise.

“You watch a video. It’s about eight or 10 minutes long. At the end of that video, you write a narrative on what you saw recalling who, what, where, when and all that kind of stuff. Then we do a physical agility test called the Cooper Assessment. The next day you come back and do an oral interview,” Sanders said.

Sanders said the oral interview consists of three officers, usually two officers and a supervisor, and a citizen that sits on the hiring board.

“We have not scheduled a hiring assessment. I just sent out an email to the people that are on our hiring committee, and we’re trying to get an assessment scheduled ASAP,” Sanders said, saying she expects the assessments to start the first week of July.

“As soon as we get that hiring assessment done, depending on their scores and how they rank, the chief will pick candidates from that list,” Sanders said.

Once the chief selects a candidate to continue, they go through a thorough background check and are submitted to him to review. If he decides to hire them, the candidate is given a conditional job offer contingent on a drug screening and psychological test. Based on those results, they are sent to a free two-week academy assessment.

Sanders explained that several years ago they began bringing in candidates two weeks before the regular Police Academy to put them through some driving and shooting training because they would frequently lose candidates who were unable to pass those tests.

“Since we’ve done that, we’ve only lost one student at the police academy, and that’s probably been in the last 10 years. That’s been a really successful thing for us,” Sanders said. “We would all hold our breath through the academy to see if they made it through the firearms and driving test. Because if you don’t successfully complete either one of those phases, you’re automatically expelled from the academy.”

Sanders said about half of the applications they have received are already Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) certified. If the candidates are POST certified, they still go through vetting, but they don’t have to go through the academy.

“They roll right into what we call our Field Training Officer (FTO) program. Depending on their experience level, that can be anywhere from four weeks to a maximum of 12 weeks,” Sanders said.

Sanders said the salary increases will allow the LPD to be more selective with their hires as well.

“I think it’s very much going to be a valuable thing for us to not only retain people but to get quality applicants in the door,” she said.