Retired Durham Deputy Chief says having specialized units fill in on patrol will help boost staffing

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DURHAM, NC (WNCN) – In three weeks, Durham police officers who are investigators and above will start filling in on patrol to combat the shortage of officers as the police department has doubled the number of vacancies they had a year ago.

According to recent data from Durham Police, there are 80 vacancies in the department. In June 2020, there were 41 vacancies and in June 2019 there were 24.

CBS 17 was the first to break the story on Monday that the department was considering having officers in specialized units fill in on patrol, after we obtained internal emails that said that criminal investigators and traffic investigators could start going out on patrol.

During Thursday’s city council work session, Chief Andrews said that between the months of January and March, all officers who are investigators and above will work a total of four days of patrol, including Andrews.

“We formulated a structure where we could put more officers on the street and not compromise their workload and their day-to-day tasks,” Andrews said.

But how effective will this plan be at filling the shifts?

CBS 17 reached out to Durham Police to find out how many hours these officers work when they fill in on patrol and how much it is expected to boost patrol staffing. We are still waiting to hear back.

A source told CBS 17 on Friday that this plan will add at least seven patrol cars to the shifts, so they’ll have more officers available to answer calls.

According to data from an internal email CBS 17 obtained, staffing on a patrol shift dipped as low as 56% on October 24, even with extra patrol officers working overtime shifts to help cover the shifts.

Steve Mihaich, a retired Durham deputy chief, left the department in 2012 and he said he has never seen the patrol staffing this low.

“Patrol staffing usually ran around maybe 80% or 90%, somewhere around there,” Mihaich said.

When I told him about Chief Andrews’ plan to have all officers who are investigators and above fill in on patrol for four days over a three-month time period, he said he thinks it could help boost these staffing levels on patrol.

“The bottom line is that patrol is the backbone of the department, those 911 calls need to be answered,” Mihaich said.

CBS 17 asked if having investigators work these four days on patrol from January to March would take these officers away from their cases they need to investigate.

“Any time you take an officer away from their duties, it’s going to have some type of impact on them, but you have to look at what the benefit is going to be,” Mihaich said. “As I said before, patrol is the backbone.

Those 911 calls need to be responded to, and if they’re short that needs to be backfilled.”

Mihaich said the real solution to this problem is to fill the vacancies and to do that, officers need a raise and support from council.

“I think the elected officials and I think City Hall need to be supporting police officers, they need to be looking at why they’re leaving,” Mihaich said. “I think they need to talk to the chief about how they need to effectively reduce crime in Durham.”

While Durham police officers make more than Roxboro ($36,278) officers, Durham is still lagging behind the cities of 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 considering a proposal to increase officer pay next month.

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