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Chief Burns Says 20 More Cruisers Will Hit Macon Streets | News

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Chief Burns Says 20 More Cruisers Will Hit Macon Streets
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Macon Police Chief Mike Burns says he'll send an additional 20 cruisers a day out on the streets as part of the city's response to a recent wave of shootings.

Burns wouldn't break down the increased number of cruisers by shift, but said they'll be mostly at night.

"They're not just going to one area of town, they might hit all four areas of town in the same night, they have a lot of leeway," said Burns.

The chief also said he'll be asking the city council for additional funds to pay for overtime and gasoline as a result of the increased patrols, which he said would last at least through the end of this year.

Burns spoke after he and other top Macon police officials met Friday morning with about a dozen Indian merchants.

They want be part of the solution... they didn't criticize police efforts but offered to help, he said.

They talked about the city's response to the fatal shooting of a convenience store employee. Vishnu Patel was shot outside the Sprint Food Shop on Napier Avenue late Wednesday as he and two other men left the store.  Burns says around 25 additional officers were on patrol when the shooting happened.

The police officials expressed their condolences for the latest killing and heard their concerns about safety. Police said the meeting lasted about 30 minutes.

Burns said they also offered the store owners safety tips and safety training and said they'd be checking stores more often at closing time.

The latest operation will also involve a combination of specially trained units, like SWAT and the Strike team, that are most familiar with hot spot areas.  He says seven SWAT officers and 19 SWAT officers are part of the operation.

Patel's at least the fourth Indian-American shopkeeper shot to death at a Central Georgia convenience store in the past 15 months.

 Last year, three fatal shootings led to a downtown Macon march and calls for improved security at those stores that stay open late.

POLICE PROMOTIONS DELAYED

Although his units are dedicated, Burns says the extra hours could wear down personnel, since they're understaffed among supervisors, due to lack of promotions.

"I have right now four lieutenants and 13 sergeant vacancies," said Burns.  "The list ran out in September of 2009."

The list holds the names of those who passed an assessment's test and are ready to get promoted.  Without a new list, Burns says they can't move forward and that affects more than morale, pay and pensions. 

"It's taking investigations longer," Burns said.

The chief says the city council this year selected the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute to run the assessment process but says the city took too long to pick them, so promotions can't take place this year.

"Maybe it wasn't a priority to some folks and a lot of red tape," he added.

Burns says the promotions definitely won't happen this year since officers are given a minimum of two months to prepare, after receiving the test date.  No date has been set.

A federal judge lifted a long-time decree order last year, that oversaw the hiring and promotions of Macon's police and fire department's to end racial discrimination. 

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