Atlanta Police Department blasts ‘misinformation campaign’ after Buckhead City Committee claims lowering of standards

The Atlanta Police Department is blasting a “misinformation campaign” about its hiring practices following claims about lower standards made by the Buckhead City Committee (BCC).

APD’s Jan. 5 statement, issued on social media with a graphic saying “Accuracy Alert,” did not name the source it was replying to, and the department would not specify it when asked later by Buckhead.com. However, the statement came the same day the BCC claimed in a press release that “Mayor Dickens instructed APD to lower the bar in a desperate rush to hire more police officers.”

“We at the Atlanta Police Department (APD) love the entire City of Atlanta; however, we must stand up for our department and our troops and we must refute false claims and misinformation recently made,” said the APD statement. “We don’t want to be dragged into the middle of a misinformation campaign.”

“The APD is NOT lowering hiring standards for our police officers,” the statement continued before going into various policy details.

Crime fears and realities are the major drivers of Buckhead City political momentum. The BCC claims cityhood and a local police force are the only solutions to crime. Dickens has sought to neutralize the cityhood movement and address citywide crime by promising a variety of improvements, including the rapid hiring of 250 additional officers. The BCC in turn has attempted to dismiss Dickens as dishonest and the cityhood movement as pro-police.

The recent BCC press release elaborated on that criticism in an attempt to torpedo the new hiring policy. It included a lengthy story from Bill White, the BCC’s chairman and CEO:

“A high-ranking department leader called me this week to inform us that he has been instructed by the mayor’s team to lower recruitment and hiring standards, so Mayor Dickens can hire 250 new officers in his first year. This is a total disaster and could lead to unqualified officers on our streets and put good officers’ lives and the public’s lives at risk. Lowering hiring standards just to make headline is disgraceful and not what Buckhead or the City of Atlanta needs right now to fight crime.”

The APD’s statement says it has no need to lower standards as it continues hiring. It says 813 applicants were suspended last year for failing to meet those standards. APD also noted that police officer certification is conducted by the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council, which it said has not lowered its standards, either. In terms of quantity and quality of training, the APD statement said, “Our standards have been and will remain above those required by the state.”

“Regardless of any misinformation you may hear, the Atlanta Police Department remains among the best law enforcement agencies in the nation,” the APD statement said. “We are proud of our officers and the training standards each is held to and we are proud to serve everyone in this great city. We will continue working to improve the quality of life of every Atlantan.”

The APD situation is not the first time the BCC has faced correction over social media claims made as shots against Dickens. In recent weeks, White repeatedly claimed that Dickens lived within the area that could become Buckhead City, suggesting an ulterior motive of wanting to keep his Atlanta government job, before acknowledging that information was incorrect. The claim appeared to be based on outdated information about Dickens’ previous residence in Northwest Atlanta. He currently lives in Collier Heights in Southwest Atlanta.

The following is APD’s full statement:

We at the Atlanta Police Department (APD) love the entire City of Atlanta; however, we must stand up for our department and our troops and we must refute false claims and misinformation recently made.

We don’t want to be dragged into the middle of a misinformation campaign.

Here are the facts:

  1. The APD is NOT lowering hiring standards for our police officers.
    a. There is no need to lower our standards.
    b. In 2021, we hired 122 recruits — this during a time we were seeing a nationwide decrease in police applications.
    c. We fully anticipate surpassing our 2021 numbers and meeting the mayor’s hiring goal for 2022, without making any changes to our hiring standards.
  2. The commander over our Background and Recruitment Unit is Deputy Chief Celeste Murphy and she is committed to increasing hiring, without lowering any hiring or training standards.
  3. All incoming APD employees must pass an intense background investigation.
    a. In 2021, we suspended 813 applicants for failing to meet our hiring standards.
  4. The certification process to become a police officer is regulated by the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council (POST).
    a. POST has not lowered their standards.
    b. Our standards have been and will remain above those required by the state.
  5. Once an applicant is hired, the process isn’t over.
    a. All police recruits must complete over 800 hours of training and 12 weeks of field training, before they graduate the academy.
    b. This is well above the state-required 408 hours of training.
    c. Recruits who do not meet our training standards do not move on to become Atlanta Police Officers.
    We hope this has helped clear things up for everyone.
    Regardless of any misinformation you may hear, the Atlanta Police Department remains among the best law enforcement agencies in the nation. We are proud of our officers and the training standards each is held to and we are proud to serve everyone in this great city. We will continue working to improve the quality of life of every Atlantan.