ATLANTA – The head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation asked lawmakers Wednesday for 20 additional agents in order to keep up with the number of shootings by law-enforcement officers which the agency investigates.
There were five situations in the last six days, and 91 cases last year for a rate of about two per week.
“Currently, there’s been such a demand for these types of investigations that we’re having to pull agents off of child-sex trafficking, other corruption and drug enforcement and put them working these officer-use-of-force cases,” said Director Vernon Keenan.
Most cases are shootouts where the officer is found to have been justified in using deadly force, he said.
Keenan is also asking for five additional toxicology scientists to address a backlog of autopsies and DNA-processing supplies. He admits he could use 15 more toxicologists, and next year he’ll request additional scientists to process DNA and fingerprints.
Another 20 agents on top of this year’s request would also be useful, he told members of the House and Senate public-safety committees that were meeting jointly to consider budget needs.
The shootings where there is death or serious injury by any local officer in the state are investigated by the GBI to satisfy the public’s demands for transparency and thoroughness.
“The number of cases we are working speaks to the level of violence that police are encountering,” Keenan said.
While the overall crime rate has been declining for decades, what crimes there are now are more violent and more complicated to investigate, according to the director.
Committee members expressed support.
“I’ve never known you to ask for anything you didn’t need,” said Sen. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons. “I think you don’t ask for enough.”
Last year, the legislature added eight agents to investigate elder abuse and boosted the pay for the doctors who do medical examinations. The higher salaries helped recruit two physicians who start in July, making the medical-examiners’ office fully staffed for the first time in years.
The 20 added agents in this year’s request will cost taxpayers $3.7 million for a salary and benefit package of $48,500 each. Salaries and supplies for the five toxicologists comes to $100,000 each or $1 million total.
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