DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Officer Ryan Harris from the Durham Police Department said there’s a reason he puts on his badge and uniform each day.
“As a police officer, I’ve enjoyed being able to make a real impact on the communities that I serve,” Harris said.
Harris, who works in the department’s recruitment division, said his job has become more crucial as the police department works to fill 110 officer vacancies. The vacancies make up about 20 percent of the department’s sworn officer positions.
“We still have a job to do at the end of the day. When someone calls the police, they expect the police to respond and it’s our responsibility to use what we have to the best of our abilities,” Harris said. “Our goal is to keep our city safe and in order to do that we need to increase our staffing.”
The recruiting officer said Durham police is not alone and said the officer shortage has impacted law enforcement agencies across the country.
The Raleigh Police Department also reports that it is working to fill a little more than 100 positions. The police department has a total of 796 sworn officer positions and 107 civilian professional staff allocated positions.
Lieutenant Jason Borneo said the Raleigh Police Department is currently looking forward to its next graduation of officers, which will be one of the largest classes to graduate.
Borneo and Harris said both police departments have seen their numbers fluctuate from resignations and retirements.
As a recruiting officer, Harris said that he continues to receive questions about safety, pay and qualifications of the job.
“Over the course of several years, there’s been a lack of confidence in what police work is and what we do. That lack of confidence has lead many people who may consider law enforcement to reconsider,” Harris said. “The challenge is there before you—you have to be the change that you want to see.”
To hire more police officers, Harris said he and others are prioritizing recruiting efforts by holding more hiring events, attending job fairs and making it easier for people to apply. Harris said applicants can apply now simply using a QR code.
“There’s a real danger of being a police officer…but the thing I think people ignore is that when you’re trained and you’re apart of an organization like ours, when we go to calls we make sure that safety is our highest priority,” he said.
A year ago, the city also raised pay for starting officers by about 10 percent.
Durham’s next hiring event is Thursday from 6-7 p.m. at its headquarters. The hiring events will be held two times per month and available to attend online and in person where participants can learn about the hiring process, benefits/salary and training requirements. The police department offers up to $13,000 in hiring incentives.
Additional hiring events will take place on April 6, April 20, May 4 and May 18.