Atlanta police introduce new take-home vehicle program as recruitment, retainment tool
The department’s exit interviews unveiled officers left the APD to join other law enforcement agencies with a take-home car program
By Wilborn P. Nobles III
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Police Department is planning to launch a new take-home vehicle program for the city’s officers.
APD interim police Chief Darin Schierbaum told residents in Buckhead last week that the Dickens administration wants to roll out the city’s first ever take-home car program this year. Neither Schierbaum nor Mayor Andre Dickens shared any more details on the program, but the police chief said the APD is also adding more cars to the police fleet.
Schierbaum said he reviewed the department’s exit interviews and found that the number one reason many officers left the APD is because they joined another law enforcement department with a take-home car program.
“We have to be very smart as we recruit and keep the Atlanta police officers here with us,” Schierbaum said. “We need to do a lot to recruit, and if we’re doing 10 things to grow the department, six things are keeping the men and women we have.”
Take-home car programs have become a significant factor for law enforcement agencies everywhere as police departments struggle with police recruiting and retention. Police attrition has increased at an alarming rate amid years of criticism from criminal justice reform advocates, activists, and other people who are upset about mass incarceration, high-profile police shootings, and officer misconduct.
Cobb County, for instance, has managed a take-home vehicle program for years. Last month, DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox said her office is planning to offer electric take-home vehicles to up to 100 current jailers and, after that, to qualified new hires. And in March, former APD Chief Erika Shields, who is now leading the Louisville Metro Police Department in Kentucky, tried to poach the city’s cops with a downtown Atlanta billboard that brought people to a website that promised an opportunity to get a take-home car.
Schierbaum told councilmembers on Monday that the city has obtained additional repair services for the APD fleet to get squad cars back on the street and into the communities. At Monday’s Buckhead town hall later that day, resident Anne McKillips criticized the city for failing to maintain its current roster of police vehicles, going as far as to say the cars should be condemned.
“I’ve been on two ride-alongs. Those cars are disgusting, absolutely disgusting,” she said.
Dickens told the woman she’s absolutely right. He promised the city is going to address that issue to ensure officers have vehicles that not only look good, but also have a lower maintenance costs.
“Those cars have been around too long and we want officers riding in something that they feel comfortable riding in,” Dickens said.