ROSWELL, Ga. — The Roswell fire and police departments look to expand in the coming years.

The department heads met with the Roswell Rotary Club on Feb. 20 at Roswell Area Park to give a State of Public Safety in Roswell update. 

The Roswell Fire Department is a combination fire department with 21 full-time employees and more than 200 part-time employees, said Fire Chief Ricky Burnette. 

“As the fire chief, there is a lot that you are responsible for and a lot of things to worry about,” he said. “But when the buzzer goes off, that’s one thing I don’t worry about., because we have the best of the best responders to take care of our citizens and those who pass through our great city.”

The Roswell Fire Department is the largest in North Fulton, responding to over 10,000 incidents a year, Burnette said. But, he added, there’s not enough space. The department is bursting at the seams.

The department is now looking to expand with a headquarters building. And through a five-year strategic plan, Burnette said he hopes to build a new fire station on Woodstock Road and rebuild two existing fire stations that were originally built in the 1970s. 

The Roswell Police Department, in contrast, is facing personnel shortages. The department currently has 14 vacancies for police officers, constituting about a 10 percent vacancy on the force, said Police Chief James Conroy.

“Recruiting, hiring and retaining quality police officers — that’s the biggest challenge we’re facing here in Roswell,” Conroy said. “But it’s not only Roswell. It’s a nation-wide issue. This is an issue all across the country. Several years ago, police came under high scrutiny, and it wasn’t popular to be a police officer anymore. That combined with the economy booming means all the police departments are fighting for the same applicants. And that applicant pool is drying up.”

That shortage, however, should not alarm residents, he said. No one is in any danger from being short staffed.

What the shortage mainly means, Conroy said, is that the department can’t fill specialty positions, such as a dedicated internal affairs investigator. To compensate, he said, officers share duties on occasion. 

Conroy also addressed several high-profile incidents of officer misconduct released in 2018, leading to an independent analysis of the department and his hiring. 

“As long as you have human beings doing this job as a police officer or firefighter, we’re going to have misconduct, because that’s human nature,” Conroy said. “The difference is, we will address and handle it appropriately. And that’s my commitment to you.”

Both the fire and police departments also offer opportunities for citizens to volunteer and engage with their communities through the free Community Emergency Response Team and Citizens’ Police Academy programs.

For more information about the departments and their programs, visit roswellgov.com.

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