More than one-third of recent Atlanta Police Academy graduates have been arrested or cited for a crime, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The arrests ranged from minor offenses such as shoplifting to violent charges including assault. More than one-third of the officers had been rejected by other law enforcement agencies, and more than half of the recruits admitted using marijuana. “On its face, it's troubling and disturbing,” said Vincent Fort, a state senator from Atlanta. “It would be very troubling that people might be hitting the streets to serve and protect and they have histories that have made them unqualified to serve on other departments.”
Police officials have been trying without success for more than a decade to grow the department to 2,000 officers, an effort hurt by a budget crisis. With competition for recruits intense among law enforcement agencies, Atlanta has had to make concessions. Said Lt. Elder Dancy, who runs the department's recruitment unit, “I don't think you'll find any departments who hire only applicants with squeaky-clean records.” Three decades ago, a police officer with a criminal record was much less common than it is now, said Robert Friedmann, a criminal justice professor at Georgia State University. The Journal-Constitution, through an Open Records Act request, asked for the job applications of the two most recent graduating classes. The department provided 36 applications for police recruits who graduated June 10 and Aug. 4. All the graduates are currently Atlanta police officers. Twelve out of 33 officers – 36 percent – said they have been arrested or cited with a criminal offense.