Does Atlanta have enough police? Channel 2 investigation digs into the numbers

ATLANTA — Crime rose in Atlanta including the affluent Buckhead area during the pandemic. But Atlanta’s Acting Police Chief told Channel 2 there are enough officers to keep you safe.

Channel 2′s Michael Seiden dug deeper into the numbers to learn how many officers respond to 911 calls.

The protests against police brutality after George Floyd’s death were a breaking point for retired Atlanta Police investigator Tyrone Dennis.

“We’re getting screamed at, spit at,” said Dennis. After his third night of working 12 hours shifts, his 13-year-old daughter ran to him and hugged him.

“I’m like what’s wrong and she’s like ‘Daddy I don’t you to be police no more. I want you to just be my Dad,’” said Dennis.

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After 16 years with Atlanta Police, Dennis, one of the top gang experts in Georgia, retired in August.

“With everything that occurred, including George Floyd, we were blamed for it,” said Dennis.

Channel 2 got Atlanta Police records that showed Dennis is one of 192 officers who retired, resigned, or were terminated in 2020.

It was a difficult year between the pandemic along with the firing of Atlanta Police officers after two college students were Tased during the protests and the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks. It led to hundreds of officers calling out sick.

“We felt that we didn’t get the proper backing from the powers that be like they demonize the officers as if the officers are wrong,” said Dennis.

[RELATED: Mayor says sick calls aren’t affecting safety as APD foundation hands out bonuses]

At the same time officers were leaving, crime increased in Atlanta raising concerns about safety.

“Does the City of Atlanta have enough police officers?” asked Seiden.

“You know they do,” answered Acting Chief Rodney Bryant.

Bryant gave Channel 2 a spreadsheet showing Atlanta Police had 1,719 officers including recruits with a gun as of January 26, 2020. That’s nearly 300 less than the goal of 2,000 officers set by former mayors Bill Campbell and Kasim Reed.

Before interviewing Bryant, Channel 2 filed multiple open records requests to get an accurate picture of Atlanta Police staffing levels and whether they have enough officers to handle 911 calls.

“One of the things we never do is put the citizens and our police officers in harm’s way,” said Bryant.

According to Atlanta Police documents, the department had 1,451 sworn officers as of February 11, 2020. Typically sworn officers work in one of Atlanta’s six zones or in a specialized unit like homicide or cybercrimes.

But that number doesn’t tell how many officers are responding to 911 calls.

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According to three police sources to get that number we added up the total amount of senior officers and officers for each zone and came up with 582 officers. But this is only a snapshot because it includes officers out on medical or military leave or assigned to administrative duties.

Bryant said there is not a shortage of officers because he has the ability to pull from specialized units.

“I can pull from my motorcycle units and put them in the field. I can get rid of my mounted officers and put them in the field,” said Bryant.

As far as the rise in crime, Bryant said violent crime is up nationwide. But he believes Atlanta has become a prime destination or criminals because it’s one of the few cities open for business during the pandemic.

He said that’s why it’s important for the community to work with police.

“With time things continue to improve. We continue to work better together,” said Bryant.

Bryant said Atlanta Police has about 300 vacancies and the department is actively recruiting.