The Statesboro Police Department is in dire straits as it grapples with recruitment issues, attrition of longtime employees, and steady crime trends. As such, the police department is carrying the same workload as it pertains to unlawful behavior while simultaneously balancing a growing population, annexation of more property, additional commercial businesses, and a decrease in officers working on the force.
Public records show that as the department has all but pleaded for help from city hall, city bureaucrats have largely ignored the problem that has now culminated into a crisis. But one question that lingers is whether or not the requests – and pleas – from the police department are even making their way to the decision makers…or if they are stalling on the desk of the city manager.
Crime in Statesboro
In February 2023, Statesboro PD released data on the city’s ten year trends in crime. The agency reported that violent crimes and property crimes both held steady over the last decade, with the exception of 2020.
The administration has been waving the proverbial flag for at least a decade with minimal acknowledgement from city hall. In several of the more recent budget years, the requests for even one or two new positions have been declined. In doing so, the city has remained behind the curve on the demands of what the police department actually needs to adequately serve the community. The problem is exacerbated each year as the city continues to grow but the agency does not.
A previous employee of Statesboro PD told TGV News that in 2013, 12-15 officers worked night shifts with 6 to 7 working day shifts. In 2022, when that same former employee had to call for assistance from SPD in 2022 over a hefty theft that occurred on his property, only to learn that just four officers were on shift that night, including the supervising Sergeant.
Agencies rely on a formula known as the “Data Driven Staffing Model” designed by the International Chiefs of Police (IACP). The model determines the number of sworn officers necessary to meet the needs of the population, call volumes, and a diversification of administrative time and proactive/preventative patrol. In 2020, the formula recommended an additional 24 positions to reach the minimum threshold for proper staffing with that number climbing to 37 for ‘optimum staffing.’
Similarly, the Functional Analysis Method of estimating patrol requirements, which relies more on geographical area, suggested that the agency was in need of 25 additional patrol positions to function at the optimal level. When considering these recommendations, officials look at call response time, incident clearing time, and other similar data-driven statistics that yield a high level of service to the community.
In the year the report was prepared by the PD and presented to the city manager, it was authorized to bring on zero new officers.
PD Asking for More Officers
In FY 2023, the Statesboro Police Department requested funding for 13 patrol positions and one detective position, citing the details in the FY 2020 Statesboro Police Department Manpower Study. The study, however, which is the most recent available for the city, is already three years out of date.
Nevertheless, despite the requests from the PD, the budget, as presented by City Manager Charles Penny, offered just two positions – one officer and one detective – with authority given to the Chief “to over hire by four” for a total increase of five patrol officers and one detective. According to city hierarchy, the mayor and city council are not privy to specific budget requests made by department heads if the city manager opts not to include them in the annual budget. As such, the council was only aware of the small bump in staffing needs as opposed to the necessary two dozen plus or the requested thirteen.
As a result, since FY 2021, which began July 1, 2020, the approved authorized personnel for the police department increased by just six positions.
If the police department was operating at the throttle it requested based on IACP-driven data over the last decade, the agency would have funding for 42 patrol more positions, for a total of 123 sworn officers, as opposed to 79. Of the 79, only ~54 are assigned to the patrol bureau as others work in investigations and administration.
Agency Turnover and Vacancies
Currently, the agency has thirteen vacant positions for sworn officers. In addition to the vacant positions that are authorized by officials at city hall, the police department is operating well below the recommended staffing recommendations relative to the community’s needs.
The Statesboro Police Department has been actively recruiting officers for years but under the leadership of Chief Mike Broadhead, the agency has made a more concerted effort to enhance employee benefit packages, increase pay, recruit more officers, and garner more applications.
The PD has also long argued that retaining good officers, specifically with better pay and benefits, is cost-effective for the city as recruitment and training is costly.
The department has quadrupled the number of recruiting events attended and increased its advertising budget by thousands, but applications received and actual hires have largely remained stagnant.
|Total Officers Hired||11||13||7||10||12|
During the period beginning October 1, 2022 and ending February 2023, only one officer joined the force and was sent to the Academy during that time period.
Since October 1, 2022, the PD lost four sworn officers:
- 1 Patrol Officer resigned to take non-law enforcement employment
- 1 Advanced Patrol Officer retired after 27 years on the job. He worked as a School Resource Officer at Statesboro High.
- 1 six-year veteran Corporal resigned to join the Georgia State Patrol
- 1 twelve-year veteran Sergeant resigned to join the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office
Prior to those departures, the PD also lost two detectives from the investigations division who went to work for the District Attorney’s Office. However, the Georgia State Patrol remains the largest recruiter of existing officers within Statesboro PD. Their starting salary while in Trooper School is $52,350.
Pay Not Comparable to the Region
Currently, Statesboro PD pay is edged out by both Rincon PD and Richmond Hill PD, both of which have a population much smaller than Statesboro’s. The city is tied with the bare minimum in the City of Guyton and City of Claxton where the population is only 2,500.
Additionally, many agencies offer incentive bonuses at the time of hire, at the end of Patrol Officer training (around 34 weeks), and on one and two-year work anniversaries. Dues paid to the Peace Officer’s Annuity and Benefit Fund by the agency is also a common ‘add-on’ benefit, but the City of Statesboro does not offer either.
Can I Get $1?
In April of 2022, Chief Broadhead had to make his case to Penny for an extra $29,200 annually simply to provide $1 extra per hour just for the officers and dispatchers who work the Graveyard Shift – 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. -, a common practice in many other agencies.
Specific Requests from Chief Regarding Budgetary Needs
In the fall of 2022, TGV News requested:
- emails between City Manager Charles Penny and Chief Mike Broadhead,
- emails between Penny and Deputy Chief Rob Bryan, and
- emails to and from Penny to anyone regarding SPD employees.
The request was for the window beginning August 1, 2022 and ending November 1, 2022 – or three calendar months.
The city stated that emails between Broadhead and Penny and Broadhead and Bryan alone totaled ‘100s of emails’ and would be extremely costly. TGV News clarified the request for emails was related to a previous Open Records Request specific to budget requests from the PD.
The city responded by asking for ‘keywords’ to narrow the response field of emails as they were unable to filter emails in any other way. TGV revised the request again to seek ‘budget requests’ and ‘budget amendments’ for the police department during the Aug. 1 to Nov. 1, 2022 time period, to which the city said ‘there are still hundreds of them that are coming up.’
Ultimately, TGV abandoned the request over excessive time and cost estimates for the city to retrieve emails.
But the result of the information request yielded an important question: If the city manager, who is charged with preparing the budget for council on an annual basis, is not maintaining mid-year budget requests from department heads throughout the fiscal year, how could his proposal for the following year adequately represent the department needs?
Records that were obtained suggest that in November 2022, the police department asked to increase the starting salary of an officer from $40,630 to $46,115.46 – a 13.5% raise. The document denotes a handwritten note that says ‘Proposed + Under Consideration’ as of 11/7/22, but as of April 5, 2023, the proposal has not been presented to the city council nor has any other mid-year budget request from the PD appeared on an agenda for city council consideration.
5,649 Overtime Hours in 2019
In addition to the costs associated with recruitment and training, overtime for current officers is also expensive as the rate of pay increases to ‘time and a half,’ or the hourly salary + 50% of the hourly pay once an officer has worked 171 in a month.
In 2019, officers assigned to the patrol bureau worked 5,649 hours in overtime to properly staff shifts, cover special events (festivals, public gatherings, etc.) and functions outside of normal patrol duties. The hours do not include extra duty jobs such as those at Georgia Southern or Statesboro High School which are bill as ‘extra duty events.’
How Much Would More Officers Cost Taxpayers?
The $20.97 hourly rate in the FY 2023 budget request for Statesboro PD yields an annual salary of $43,624.90. When factoring in benefits, retirement, and payroll taxes, the per patrol officer cost is around $60,000, according to FY 2023 budget documents.
Thirteen new positions would cost the city approximately $780,000 more at the current rates of pay, though the city would save on overtime hours and other costs related to recruiting and retention.
Can the City Afford Higher Pay and More Officers?
Public safety, including police, fire, and EMS, is not a ‘money maker’ for any local government, and arguably should not be. Most municipalities consider the operations ‘sunk costs’ or ‘costs of doing business’ in exchange for having a safe environment for citizens and businesses.
But according to the city’s only budget documents, taxes have been on an upward trajectory since 2014 and increased by 21.5% in FY 2023 over FY 2022. While the city’s millage rate has remained at 7.308 mills, collections have increased every year for the last six years due to additional properties joining the tax digest and property values rising. Tax year 2022 over tax year 2021 alone showed a $431,000 increase just in property taxes.
Additionally, the city’s 10-year plan was to establish a reserve balance of 25% of the General Fund budget. That fund was at 40% of the city’s annual General Fund expenses and totaled $7,110,164 at the end of FY 2020.
What Has Been Funded While the Police Department Suffers?
- $84,000 on ‘branding’ for new city logos and marketing materials.
- Over the last 5 years, the city has instituted an Assistant City Manager and an Executive Assistant to the City Manager, in addition to the administrative assistant for the City Manager.
- The budget for the Office of the City Manager has subsequently increased 13.28% in the last year and by more than $220,000 since FY 2019, when Charles Penny was hired.
- Increased the city manager’s travel budget from $2,500 to $7,500 in addition to an annual vehicle allowance for him and his staff in the amount of $16,800.
- Annual vehicle allowances for five other city hall staff members in the amount of $6,000 each.
- An annual 2-day retreat for city council and city manager at the Westin on Jekyll Island, complete with dinner at Eighty Ocean Kitchen & Bar (county commissioners in Bulloch County meet at Hanner FieldHouse or the county annex)
- $73,050.00 for architectural design services for renovations to City Hall and Joe Brannen Hall
During the April 3, 2023 city council meeting, City Manager Charles Penny told council that the most important asset a city has is human capital. The comment, however, came along with a discussion on granting employees in the public works department a four hour stipend of ‘on the clock’ gym time at the city owned gym.