DURHAM, NC – Soon Durham Police officers who work in specialized units, such as criminal investigations and community services, may have to start filling in on patrol as the Durham Police officer shortage continues, according to internal emails CBS 17 obtained.
According to an internal email sent by Durham Deputy Chief of Police Joseph Kelly to other police officials, Kelly said the department needed to look at possibly using auxiliary resource units to supplement uniform patrol should patrol vacancies continue to increase.
The email listed “auxiliary resource units” as the criminal investigations department, the Traffic Accident and Collision (TACT) team, Motors, the Community Services Department, etc.
Kelly said in the email, “all officers should be considered for this game plan, and we’ll eliminate officers on an as-needed basis.”
He added that “as in the United States Marines….all Marines are Riflemen and ALL officers are Police Officers regardless of assignment.”
CBS 17 reached out to Durham Police on Monday to see if they would confirm when or if officers in specialized teams will start going out on patrol but they would not answer those specific questions.
However, sources told CBS 17 that this is something that will happen in the coming weeks.
The email sent by Kelly also said that the police department would need to look at a potential comprehensive plan to reduce the amount of in-person calls for service that the department responds to.
“This will be a major undertaking and I will share with you all the information that I have acquired from a North Carolina agency that rolled out a massive plan based on their decreased personnel shortages,” Kelly’s email says. “I just want you all to be thinking and planning on possibly moving in that direction. All thoughts are welcome.”
CBS 17 asked Chief Andrews at a community event on Saturday if the Durham Police Department is officially moving forward with reducing the number of calls for service they respond to.
“None of our calls are reduced, our officers are responding to every call that comes into 911,” Chief Andrews said.
CBS 17 asked Andrews at what point the police department would reduce the number of calls they respond to if the staffing numbers continue to drop, but she said that is not something they are doing at this point.
“I will tell you there is a plan in place to address recruiting and retention, and that involves resource allocation,” Chief Andrews said on Saturday. “We are currently addressing it.”
Some of the emails CBS 17 obtained included data that showed patrols from July through September were typically staffed between 50% to 70%. Even with supplemental help, which includes officers helping by working overtime, the patrol staffing was still lower than 70 percent.
According to the Durham Police officials, there are 80 vacant officer positions out of 537, which means 15 percent of their positions are vacant.
Data from last year shows that there were only 41 officer vacancies in Durham in June 2020 and in June 2019 there were only 24 vacancies. This means the number of officer vacancies continues to rise, with vacancies almost double what they were last year.
The shortage in officers is concerning to people who live in neighborhoods where they hear gunfire on a frequent basis.
Henry Silver said he is concerned about gunfire in his neighborhood, and he said a young man was recently murdered on Jersey Avenue not far from where he lives.
“There was a young man shot to death, on the street in front of the apartment,” Silver said.
Even though Silver does not necessarily think putting more police officers on the streets will stop the shootings, he said he wants the city he lives in to be protected.
“With so many vacancies, the chances of you getting a quick response are reduced,” Silver said. “Why is Durham having a hard time filling their ranks?”
CBS 17 has previously reported on the reason for the vacancies, and one of the factors that’s been blamed for the shortage of officers is the low pay.
The starting pay for Durham police officers is $38,511 which lags behind pay in Greensboro ($41,513), Raleigh ($42,300), Hillsborough ($43,227), Holly Springs ($47,932), Wake Forest ($50,243), and Cary ($51,000).
Durham City Council will be hearing a proposal to raise police officer pay at a work session on January 6th.