Atlanta police struggle to fill open positions amid violent crime spike

'We undertook this audit due to recent civic unrest that highlighted a national crisis in police hiring and retention across the country,' a letter to city leaders reads.

The Atlanta Police Department is struggling to fill vacancies in its ranks as crime rates continue to soar, according to a newly released report. 

A report on its hiring practices found that less than 2% of police applicants were hired over a three-year period from 2017 through September of last year. The department received more than 12,120 applications for police officer positions but only 171, or 1.4%, were hired. 

The audit said the department's recruitment process is designed to weed out unfit candidates. 

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The report came from the City Auditor's Office and was submitted to the City Council on Monday. The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported that that report was requested by the council following the exit of numerous police officers after protests and marches that sprang up last year against police misconduct. 

"We undertook this audit due to recent civic unrest that highlighted a national crisis in police hiring and retention across the country," a letter signed by City Auditor Amanda Noble and Daniel Ebersole, vice chair of the Audit Committee to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the council read. 

The report said stringent standards require a large pool of applicants to fill police officer vacancies. The report found that 92% of applicants who began filling out a waiver packer failed to complete it. It said even a 5% increase in waiver packet completions would result in a nearly 50% increase in firing. 

The auditor's office recommended that the police department partner with human resources to make it easier for applicants to complete the waiver packets. A video tutorial will be created to do that, the report said. 

"We found that the Atlanta Police Department’s hiring processes are consistent with best practices and internal procedures," the letter said. " Our recommendations focus on better use of technology to communicate with and track applicants to expand the candidate pool." 

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The drop in hiring comes as the city grapples with a spike in violent crime. Over a bloody weekend, 12 people were shot and two were killed, including a 15-year-old girl. 

"Gun violence has taken the life of another child in our city along with the 13 others shot over the weekend, on the heels of an 80% spike in violent crimes over the past year," Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore said, WXIA-TV reported. "We have all had enough! My sincere condolences to the families impacted. The time for planning is over. Where is the action on the number of plans previously announced? Atlanta can't wait," Moore said.