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A law enforcement agency from another state is attempting to hire officers away from the Birmingham area.

The Gwinnett County Police Department (GCPD) of the Atlanta metro area held a hiring event in Birmingham on Sept. 24 and 25 so officers could apply and potentially receive a conditional job offer. 

This comes at a time of skyrocketing violent crime in Birmingham, as well as a national police staffing shortage

According to Neighborhood Scout, Birmingham is among the most dangerous cities in the United States, only safer than 1% of other U.S. cities. Birmingham has a violent crime rate of 16.61 per 1,000 residents. 

Someone's chance of becoming a violent crime victim in Birmingham is one in 60. In Alabama, those chances are one in 225.

September, in particular, was a bloody month for Birmingham. 

Over Labor Day weekend, a spree of murders plagued the city resulting in at least six deaths and more injuries. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin suggested the violence might be due to gang activity.

Since then, there have been at least 10 other homicide investigations. Some arrests are yet to be made.

Lt. Joni Money of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) told WBRC that the GCPD has been to Birmingham on multiple occasions but that she is unclear whether they have successfully recruited officers away from the area.

Money said she's not surprised police departments are coming to Birmingham for new recruits because other agencies see the value in Birmingham officers.

Salary comparisons

Nevertheless, other police departments might be recruiting in Birmingham because they know they can out-bid relatively low police salaries.

According to Zippa.com, Alabama has the second-lowest average police officer salary in the country at $31,822. The only state where police officers make less, on average, is Mississippi at $30,822.

The GCPD will also hold a hiring event in Jackson, Miss., next month.

The GCPD offers a $4,700 hiring incentive to its new recruits and posted salaries of $47,284 for new hires with a high school diploma (or GED), $48,703 for new hires with an associate's degree and $50,121 for new hires with a bachelor's degree.

Based on the listed rates, GCPD recruits make, on average, $8,004.33 more than officers with the Birmingham Police Department (BPD).

According to the BPD website, recruits with a high school diploma or GED receive a salary of $38,729.60. Recruits with an associate's degree receive a salary of $40,664, and recruits with a bachelor's degree receive a salary of $42,702.40.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) did not list its salaries on its website but said that salaries "are competitive with any other law enforcement agency in the state."

Keeping officers in Alabama

Money said Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway isn't taking the out-of-state recruitment efforts lightly and is working to restructure the JCSO's pay and benefit scale to make it more attractive to officers.

She said anyone interested in becoming a law enforcement agent could request a ride along to see what it's like.

Trussville Police Department (TPD) Chief Eric Rush told 1819 News that he had hired officers from both BPD and JCSO before, and he's not aware of any of his officers leaving for out-of-state jobs. 

"Officer retention is a priority for me due to the current hiring pool being dismal," Rush said. "Unfortunately, not many people want to do this job anymore."

Although 1819 News reached out to the BPD to ask for a response to the recruitment efforts and what they are doing to retain officers in the Birmingham area, BPD had not replied by the time this story was published.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email will.blakely@1819news.com or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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