Monday, August 13, 2007

The mayor, the chief and the PR campaign

Posted By on Mon, Aug 13, 2007 at 9:03 PM

meeting-0086.jpg

MAYOR FRANKLIN AND CHIEF PENNINGTON AT PUBLIC SAFETY MEETING SATURDAY: “Omigod, 'Reno 911!' last night was a trip!”

(Photo by Joeff Davis)

It was supposed to be Mayor Shirley Franklin’s launch of a high-spirited public relations campaign on behalf of her under-fire police chief, Richard Pennington. But Saturday’s community forum at the Georgia Power HQ auditorium was decidedly ho-hum.

Citizens wanted to know why some police districts were huge and under-staffed; others wanted to know why cops from their district were temporarily assigned to the overly large districts. The mayor and chief offered no insights as to why a crime wave is sweeping the city, and Pennington shouldered no responsibility for the department’s management and morale problems.

Franklin said it was hard to recruit officers, and touted four years of raises she’s given to cops. Police union leader Scott Kreher said after the meeting that until this year those were only cost of living increases, and that officers’ “step increases” – the way police financially advance during their careers — have been frozen. However, the city in June did give the cops a 3.5 percent increase plus a 2 percent cost of living raise. Even Kreher in a note to his officers conceded this was one of the biggest increases in recent history.

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