CARRBORO, N.C. (WNCN) – Every time an application comes in, Carrboro Police Chief Christopher Atack said his department quickly – and excitedly – reviews it.

But all too often, he said, the candidate’s qualifications are not quite what his command staff is looking for.

“It’s difficult to find qualified people,” he said, recalling an instance in the last couple years when an entire pool of candidates had to be disqualified.

But the problem has accelerated of late, as Carrboro — like many other agencies across the Triangle, North Carolina, and the country — deals with staffing challenges.

Atack’s agency is short nine officers right now. That may not sound like a large number compared to other central North Carolina agencies facing dozens, or even hundreds, of openings, but on his police force of 39 officers, nine vacancies is significant. It’s close to a quarter. And by mid-summer, with retirements, he anticipates Carrboro police will be 12 officers, or 30 percent, short

“You get tired. You can’t take days off. You have to run more calls,” Atack said, noting that he, himself, is taking calls these days. But he worries about the toll this is taking on his force.

“What I worry about is running my people into the ground,” he told Carrboro Town Council at a virtual meeting Tuesday evening.

Many agencies facing similar challenges

Again, Carrboro is far from alone in its plight.

The Raleigh Police Protective Association confirmed to CBS 17 Thursday that the department is approximately 160 officers short, among about 800 total officers at RPD. That’s about 20 percent of the police force — nearly as large a percentage as Carrboro.

CBS 17 recently obtained data from Durham Police Department showing 86 vacancies — 16 percent of the 537 positions.

Addressing the problem

As agencies grapple with staffing challenges, CBS 17 has reported on numerous cities and towns trying to find ways to attract new officers – from incentives to pay raises, in some cases.

Durham police raised starting officer salaries about 10 percent last month. The Fraternal Order of Police there recently told CBS 17, since then, the agency has seen fewer officers depart for other departments.

Durham County this week announced $6,000 sign-on bonuses for new sheriff’s deputies.

And also this week, the city of Raleigh announced a proposal to raise starting officer salary by about 12 percent as part of an effort to attract more candidates.

Carrboro Town Council recently approved $4,000 — or 9percent — raises for starting officers. Atack said it’s too early to say whether the move has prompted more applications, but noted that the town plans to embark on a compensation study this year that will include police officer salaries.

Bottom line, though, he hopes to see new and stronger candidates consider entering law enforcement as a career.

“We think we have a really good (policing) model here,” he said. “We just need the right people to give us a chance and reach out.”