Warner Robins police look to hire 12 officers

bpurser@macon.comApril 10, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Against the backdrop of the new $10 million Law Enforcement Center, police hope to fill several vacancies through a career expo there Friday and Saturday.

“We wanted to do something different and let people come to us and see pretty much what our turf is like if they decide to pursue a career with our agency -- what kind of environment they’ll be in, what kind of equipment to expect -- just to give them a little inside look into our actual agency,” said Tabitha Clark, public information officer for Warner Robins police.

The expo is 3-7 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m.-noon Saturday at the LEC at 100 Watson Blvd.

At full strength, the police department has 117 sworn officers. Of those, 96 are currently on the job, eight are in mandate training and one new officer starts Monday, Clark said. There are 12 vacancies within the agency.

Though Clark said the police department’s retention rate was not available, she said the turnover in the department is not significant.

“We have officers leave from time to time, and there’s several different ranges for those reasons,” said Clark, who handles recruitment for Warner Robins police along with training division Officer Kirk Lowry. “Some spouses move to another part of the state because of employment reasons.

“Some officers are able to get, to use opportunities in other parts of law enforcement such as teaching or going to another agency that’s higher up than us, and some officers just decide to get out of law enforcement all together just because they feel like it’s not the right career field for them.”

There are challenges in hiring new officers and retaining them, though.

“Being an officer is a calling, and obviously, officers, regardless of what agency you’re with, are not paid a substantial amount,” Clark said. “So especially in our agency, officers become police officers because that’s what they want to do with their lives. They want to go out and help people, serve people, things like that.”

The starting salary for a patrol officer is $15.08 an hour, Clark said, an increase from $13.88 an hour last year. She said the pay, which is listed as an annual figure of $32,934.72 on the agency’s website, is competitive with starting salaries at other law enforcement agencies in the area.

“When you look at the pay as well as our benefits that we have, we’re very competitive with other agencies in our area,” she said. “We’re very fortunate as city employees to have very low insurance rates. We pay very little compared to other agencies as far as what we pay out for our health and dental and vision and all the benefits that we receive.”

Before consolidation, in 2013 Macon police paid $30,472 annually to starting patrol officers, while the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office paid starting patrol deputies $30,253, according to the latest figures available from a voluntary survey by the Georgia Municipal Association.

Some applicants fall short on their background checks, Clark said.

“We have a very tight, strict hiring process, and we have strict standards by what we hire by such as no felony convictions, no conviction of a DUI within the past five years, poor management of finances, things like that,” she said. “Most of the time, unfortunately, somebody will get to the background package, but there will be something that disqualifies them.”

Information about the agency’s hiring process, including applicant standards, is posted on the department’s website at www.wrpolice.org.

Several officers, including Lt. Scott McSwain, the agency’s internal affairs investigator, will be at the expo to answer questions about being a police officer and the agency’s hiring process. The agency expects to roll out some of its 2013 Dodge Chargers for the event. Applicants will be able to look inside the cars and see the technology and tools officers use on a daily basis, Clark said.

“We’re kind of using the Law Enforcement Center as our backdrop,” Clark said. “We like for people to know that we have an exceptional facility as well as our brand new cars and a lot of aspects that are great benefits to people that should want to come into the law enforcement profession.”

The expo is expected to be set up in front of the LEC and extend to the secured-area of the front lobby, Clark said. Tours are not planned, she said.

“They will get all the information that they need to start the hiring process, but they won’t actually fill out the application there,” Clark said. “This is more of an information sharing event.”

Most of the 12 vacancies will likely be filled within the patrol division for which two-thirds of the sworn officers are assigned, Clark said. But the number is fluid because as new officers are hired, existing patrol officers are expected to be given consideration for possible promotions or movement into other divisions such as narcotics, she said.

Vacancies in the patrol division create challenges for the agency, with officers in other divisions such as traffic filling in, she said.

“We have a great group of officers who make the best of everything that they encounter,” Clark said. “Obviously, the job is very stressful at times.

“But our officers, I would say, are the best in the best in the Middle Georgia area, and they make their job what it is. I would say that they’re very happy with their jobs the way that they’re able to serve their community,” she said.

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