Recruitment efforts reached a milestone last month when 40 applications came into City Attorney William Linkous’ office between Aug. 13 and 30, the closing date for that step of the process.
“The new police chief, when appointed, will propose a budget to be approved by the mayor and city council,” City Manager David Milliron said.
The police chief is slated to be in place by October, he said, after a screening process narrowing the field to 10 candidates, then five, then a recommendation to the city council.
Stockbridge is the only city in the county that does not have its own police force.
The city now contracts with the county police department for public safety services.
Under an intergovernmental agreement and a service delivery strategy, Henry County taxes city property owners more than $1.1 million to provide police services at the same level it does in unincorporated areas.
The city pays an additional $775,000 for extra patrols.
“Together with state and federal grants and other revenue sources, that’s plenty to fund a local police force,” Milliron said about a budget which may approach $3 million.
The city contracts with the county annually for about $155,000 in additional off-duty police services, paid an additional $1.5 million during the past three years for two extra officers per shift and spent another $2.6 million to renovate its former city hall, which the county rents as its north police precinct.
That location is not necessarily where the city police headquarters will be, Milliron said.
But the city website lists Municipal Park’s address as “adjacent to the New Stockbridge City Police Department at 4545 North Henry Blvd.,” the present home of the north precinct.
“No decision has been made nor will one be made until the new chief is in place,” Milliron said.
On Aug. 12, the city council approved a $1,000 donation to the north police precinct in appreciation of the county’s law enforcement services.
“The north precinct will continue to serve the Stockbridge area in the near future,” the accompanying resolution stated.
On July 16, the city council approved the department’s formation.
Mayor Mark Alarcon said then, “This is the time, the date, the hour that we need to bring this service back.”
He estimates the new police force would be operational next year but said Stockbridge will need to coordinate its efforts with the county.
The mayor said the city will seek state and federal grants to offset its start-up costs.
Alarcon said some initiatives of the new police force will include neighborhood watch programs, community-oriented policing, a citizen’s police academy and public safety training for residents.
A city police department means more officers familiar with local streets and residents, he said.
“We want more zone integrity,” Alarcon said in a statement, “which means that a police officer knows when a citizen leaves his house at 3 a.m., he isn’t looking to commit a crime but is on his way to work the third shift.”
A private-public partnership with Community Broadband LLC, providing a $15 million state-of-the art fiber optic network to the city at no cost to taxpayers, will directly benefit the city police force, he said, when it goes live next summer.
“Every car is going to have the best computers, the best radar, the best tag readers,” Alarcon said.