Interim Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant says the coronavirus is hurting his department’s ability to hire, claiming the pandemic slows background checks and restricts the number of new officers set to graduate from the police academy, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. While the department has for years striven to reach a force of 2,000, today it only employs roughly 1,600. In fourth quarter of 2020, 37 officers left due to retirement, resignations, and dismissals, but only 17 new officers were hired in that time. Adding to the manpower problem, between July and August of 2020, 64 officers left the department, which the force blames on a rise in high profile-incidents in which officers faced criminal charges and firings for alleged misconduct during public protests. Meanwhile, the department had to reduce the number of classes at its police academy to prevent the spread of COVID. Despite the reported low morale among officers, there is an increased demand for safety from both businesses and residents in a city that experienced a 62 percent increase in homicides and a 16 percent increase in aggravated assaults in 2020.