Columbus Police Chief says LOST is Solution to Department's Problem

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by Lindsey Connell
WTVM News Reporter
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July 3, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WXTX)-- In recent years, Columbus has grown in population but the Police Department has stayed the same.

According to Chief Ricky Boren, the department has not added any new positions since 1995.

"The number of calls have expanded, the number of people coming into Columbus with a request for service has gotten greater over the past few years. We have to pull cars, prioritize calls and pull them from areas and send them to another area to answer calls," Boren said.

That's why he says the department would benefit from the proposed one percent Local Option Sales Tax.

Officers currently patrol 26 different beats throughout the city but with the LOST, the department would get more officers and patrol cars, creating 10 more beats and making response time faster.

With the funds from the LOST, new officers would go from making an "in-the-door" salary of around $30,000 to making $34,500.

In LaGrange, trained police officers hit the streets making $35,000.

But according to Boren, the problem isn't hiring new officers- it's retaining them. In the past five years, 197 officers have been hired and 190 were lost. He says the sales tax would help alleviate this problem.

"With the LOST, there'll be extra money there, there will be hopefully better equipment that's brought into the department, better chances of promotion as a result of increasing the size of this department, better benefits," he added.

And he guarantees that if the LOST is passed, all 100 spots will be filled.

"If the penny is put in place, we will hire 100 officers in the next couple years. If it doesn't pass, we will keep doing the job we're doing today and if they need a police presence, we will be there," he said.

If the LOST is approved by voters on July 15th, the Police Department will begin hiring for the 100 new positions in July of 2009.

That's also when all existing sworn public safety officers will receive a $3000 increase in salary with funds from the LOST.

The Chief says he would like to expand the Department to 524 officers by 2014.