Americus City Council votes unanimously to change minimum age to becoming an APD police officer from 21 to 19

Published 5:18 pm Friday, July 21, 2023

AMERICUS – At its July regular meeting on Thursday, July 20, the Americus City Council granted the request of Americus Police Chief Mark Scott by voting unanimously to change the minimum age to become an Americus Police Department (APD) entry-level police officer to 19. Up until last night’s unanimous vote, the minimum age limit had been set at 21.

Chief Scott reminded the council members that this discussion took place at last week’s agenda-setting meeting and he further added that he had done research on what other police departments around the region were doing. “What we found out was that all of the sheriff’s offices in our area will hire people at 18 years old and put them into the jail (work inside the jail), which gives them a huge advantage because they can recruit them right out of high school and them while working them as jailors, they can monitor them and see how they are doing,” Scott said.

Scott went on to say that several other departments will not allow these new officers to go on the road until they are 21, while others will put them out there at age 19 or 20. “It just depends on how that person is doing,” Scott said.

He went on to say that some of these police departments have the advantage of putting them somewhere where they can monitor them for a while before they a re ready to go out on patrol, which, according to Scott, the APD doesn’t have. Scott said that he checked with several other police departments in the area and discovered that a lot of them have changed their age requirements. Scott stated that Americus is still at 21, while Albany has dropped theirs down to 20 and Dougherty County PD is still at 21, although he did find out through a conversation with the police chief of Dougherty County that they are considering dropping their age limit as well.

“Montezuma PD has dropped theirs to 19, Cordele has dropped theirs from 21 to 18, Perry has gone down to 20, Columbus is still at 21 and Warner Robins is still at 21,” Scott said. “Dawson has gone down to 20 and Thomasville has gone down to 20 and I talked to the chief at Camilla today and he’s at 21, but they are thinking of going down to 20,” Scott continued.

Scott’s main concern for wanting to change the age requirements was because he needs more police officers in his department to be able to best serve the community even though he admitted that many young people are working from home and are, in his opinion, unwilling to do hands on jobs.

Council Member Daryl Dowdell asked Scott What age requirement the Sumter County Police Department has as its minimum age and Scott replied that the minimum age requirement for Sumter County is 21. Council Member Nelson Brown stated that an 18-year-old can join the military and go off to fight in a war, but he expressed concerns tat so many officers are coming in and then leaving. Brown told Scott that he would appreciate it if he would do a study as to why people coming into the force are not staying for a lengthy period of time and that he would like the supervisors in the department to stress to the new officers to do their jobs.

Scott went on to say that the candidate pool is dried up and that police departments all over the country are having trouble recruiting police officers, which he admitted, was a national problem for various reasons. Scott added that he went up to Connecticut to do an assessment and found out that in the town that he was in, the starting salary for an uncertified, coming through the door officer is $75,000, but they still couldn’t get any recruits to join. “Nobody is interested in the police profession at this point for all kinds of different reasons and that’s a national problem,” Scott said. “A lot of our young folks aren’t interested in going to work. They’ll sit at the house and work,” He continued.

After further discussion, Council Member Juanita Wilson made a motion to suspend the current rule, which is what had to be done first in order to then make a motion for change. Council Member Nicole Smith then seconded the motion to suspend the current rule. Council Member Daryl Dowdell then made a motion to accept the change of moving the minimum age to join the APD at 19 from 21 and Council Member Wilson seconded the motion. The ACC voted and the motion carried unanimously.

Earlier in the meeting, Tracey Carter, who was invited by Council Member Nelson Brown to be an Honorary Council Member, was recognized as such and Mayor Lee Kinnamon made a proclamation in her honor. Another presentation was made in honor of Ms. Twany Edwards, who recently completed the University of Georgia’s Certified Public Manager Program. Mayor Kinnamon made a proclamation in her honor as well.

Twany Edwards recently completed the University of Georgia’s Certified Public Manager’s program and was given a proclamation by Mayor Kinnamon for her accomplishment. Edwards (Turquoise blue) is holding the plaque with Mayor Lee Kinnamon. Keeuntae Kleckley (red) is to her left and Sonji Harvey is to her far left.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

In other news from the meeting, there was a discussion on the Intergovernmental Agreement between Sumter County and the City of Americus regarding elections. Included in this agreement is a draft of a new intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the county and the city regarding the IGA showing the county’s suggested changes to that agreement from the last one signed in 2021 and a proposed “polling place” lease agreement between the city and the county relating to the use of Reese Park as a polling place in elections. Council Member Charles Christmas made a motion to approve the 2023 Election IGA – Americus and Council Member Nicole Smith seconded the motion. The ACC voted and the approval passed unanimously. Council Member Smith then made a motion to approve the Polling Place Lease Agreement with Reese Park and Council Member Dowdell seconded the motion. The ACC voted again and the approval passed unanimously.

There were also Board Appointments to deal with at the meeting. Wade Bartlett’s term on the Board of Zoning Appeals expired on March 20, 2022 and Council Member Nelson Brown made a motion that Rick Hamilton should succeed Bartlett in that role. Council Member Kelvin Pless seconded the motion and the ACC unanimously voted Hamilton into that role.

Council Member Pless then made a motion that Frank Ceresoli, the General Manager of the Windsor Hotel, should succeed George Hooks on the Downtown Development Authority. Hooks’s term expired on September 27, 2022. Council Member Juanita Wilson seconded the motion and the ACC voted unanimously in favor of Ceresoli taking over.

Bobby Fuse’s term on the Housing Authority expires on July 24, 2023, but Mayor Lee Kinnamon reappointed Fuse for another term. Kinnamon also reappointed Beverly Brown for another term on the Housing Authority. Brown’s current term also expires on July 24, 2023.