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City police department is short of staff, overtime costs increase

With a budget of $250,000 annually for overtime, the city of Cairo’s police department receives the lion’s share of overtime pay, but city officials expressed concern Monday night about the rate of overtime paid in the first three months of this fiscal year.
Through Sept. 30, Cairo police officers have been paid $85,708.58 in overtime pay, which leaves only $164,291.42 to make it through the remaining nine months of the fiscal year, which began July 1.
Based on a $250,000 budget, the police department’s monthly overtime should be just under $21,000 per month. In July it hit $30,064.43; in August it was $27,456.44; and in September it was $28,187.71.
According to Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton, the department is down by four positions which is contributing to the increased overtime.
The police department’s monthly report for overtime in September indicates 238 hours of overtime was paid for patrol; 186 hours for court; 202 hours for investigations; 192 hours for special events (football games and road checks); and 149 hours for training.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas encouraged the city manager to fill the vacant positions as soon as possible.
Councilman Ernest Cloud said that if a new, uncertified officer was hired today it would take six months or a year to become certified.
Police Chief Keith Sandefur said the city police department is like all other small departments in that there is not much room for advancement in rank.
According to the chief he has two prospects that are being tested this week and he said he is hopeful they can be hired in the next couple of weeks, but he said they could not begin work until completing their certification at the police academy.
“We get a lot of interest, but people who go through the process are few and far between,” Chief Sandefur said.
The hiring process, according to the chief includes an extensive background check, polygraph, psychological evaluation, drug screens, interview and each candidate must pass the entrance exam to get into the police academy.
The 10-week program is taught at Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College in Tifton. Chief Sandefur said it is a national requirement that officers be certified by the state where the officer works in law enforcement.
The city police chief said that very few agencies are fully staffed at any given point in time.
“If we filled all four positions today I would say within a year someone would be gone, moved to a different department,” Sandefur said.
The veteran police chief said that candidates entering the workforce today have a different outlook than those of his generation.
“I’m dedicated to the city of Cairo. Could I have left? Yes, many, many times. But, I’m dedicated to that job and the city of Cairo and the stability to know that the city of Cairo is going to give me a check every two weeks for the job I’ve performed,” the chief said.
According to Chief Sandefur, people today are more interested in moving to a new job even if it’s for just $4 more per week.
Regardless of the level of staffing the chief said that other factors impact the overtime budget including ongoing training, court appearances, sick time and vacation time.
The current staffing level is down due to one officer recently leaving to join the Georgia State Patrol and another going into private business.
Chief Sandefur said he believes the city’s pay for officers is competitive. “I don’t think people are getting any of our officers other than something like the state patrol where they can advance themselves,” he said.
In addition to the chief, the department includes an administrative lieutenant, five investigators (two drug and three criminal), 16 certified patrol officers (currently 12), a school resource officer and three clerical workers.

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