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STOCKBRIDGE — The city of Stockbridge continues to move forward with plans to create its own police department and move away from police protection provided by Henry County.

The council voted unanimously March 30 to approve a job description and an annual pay scale for a police chief ranging from $92,581.93 to $143,501.98, depending on experience.

In a job description posted for the chief’s position, the city states that the chief will be responsible for supervising a department of 57 sworn officers and five civilian employees and providing police protection for an area of 13.31 square miles. Stockbridge has a population of about 30,000.

During discussion of the pay scale, City Manager Randy Knighton said the city expects to fill the chief’s position first and then allow the chief to hire his command staff and move forward with “putting in place the necessary ingredients for a full-fledged police department.”

Knighton said the plan is to have the department up and running by 2022.

As he has in the past, Councilman John Blount raised questions about the financial impact a police department will have on the city’s budget. While he said he is in favor of Stockbridge having its own police department, Blount objected to the fact that “there is nothing in place showing how we will pay for this police department. It seems to me we’ve got the cart before the horse.”

Knighton noted that the council has approved an allocation of $3 million for start-up costs for the department and directed the staff to move forward with creating the department. A study by the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia indicated that it will cost the city about $5.5 million annually to operate a police department. Knighton said the city can either absorb that cost into its general fund budget or look for other ways to generate the additional revenues.

The city currently has no property tax, but residents do pay millage of 1.824 to fund police protection provided by the Henry County Police Department.

Mayor Pro Tem Elton Alexander said the city will have about $2 million annually that currently goes to Henry County and has seen a budget surplus of about $2 million each of the past several years that has gone into its fund balance. He also said the city will receive about $9 million in stimulus funds.

Alexander said citizens have made it clear that public safety is a priority and that they understand a tax increase may be needed to fund a police department.

“They don’t want us to penny pinch about their safety,” said Alexander.

The police chief job listing requires successful applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in political science, criminology, criminal justice or related field, with a master’s degree preferred; 10 to 12 years of progressively responsible law enforcement experience to include five years at a supervisory level; and Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council certification. Exceptional candidates will have completed advanced training such as the FBI National Academy, Southern Police Institute, Georgia Command College or equivalent.

Candidates are also expected to have strong leadership and communication skills, experience with creating a police department, a team-oriented management style, strong budgetary skills and a proven history of building successful partnerships in the community. Candidates must also have experience in strategic planning, performance measurements and community engagement.

The application period is expected to be closed April 30.

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