ATLANTA – Thanks to the COVID pandemic, civil unrest and violent crime wave, Georgia’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) has suffered a 60% reduction in the number of state trooper applications over the last 18 months.  

During a state Senate study committee meeting Thursday, DPS chief of staff Josh Lamb told senators the 745 troopers on the state agency’s current payroll and 223 motor-carrier officers are the lowest in his 24 years of service.

“In 2020, the department lost 87 troopers either due to retirement, resignation or termination,” Lamb said. “And now, retention has become as big an issue as recruitment. We’re having a tough time getting them into the front door and an equally tough time keeping them from leaving through the back door.” 

The committee was meeting to hear from different state departments on their current number of employees and the overall health of the state’s retirement program. 

Lamb was asked by state Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, how the department’s pay scale compares to other jurisdictions. 

“We’ve raised the starting trooper’s salary from $36,832 to $47,350, and that’s still not enough,” Lamb said. “Sandy Springs just revamped their pay scale to a starting salary of $52,641, and for the Atlanta Police Department, for prior-sworn officers, that pay scale begins at $54,440.” 

Lamb also said his department has shortened its trooper school for prior-sworn officers from 34 weeks to 13 weeks. 

Nonetheless, DPS has seen an overall turnover rate of 22% over the last two to three years. The troopers lost in 2020 alone represented a $7.8 million DPS investment, Lamb said.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.