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Officer shortage strains Raleigh police force

Posted November 10, 2008
Updated November 11, 2008

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— There is growing concern over a shortage of police officers in Raleigh. The department is down 89 officers from its authorized strength.

As a result, some officers are working long hours and all promotions are on hold. The police department has struggled with recruiting and retaining officers for some time, but veteran officers say this is the worse it has ever been.

"If you want to be a police officer, if you are mid-career and you want to change careers and you always thought about being a police officer, this is a wonderful opportunity to take that step,” Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan said.

Earlier this year, Dolan implemented what he called "lateral entry" for experienced officers moving from another law enforcement agency to the Raleigh force. Newcomers are paid based on their years of service as officers rather than how long they have worked for Raleigh. The move was designed to attract more officers, but the number of vacancies has continued to rise.

"Pay and benefits is a serious concern,” said Sgt. Rick Armstrong, with the Raleigh Police Protective Association.

Armstrong's group looks out for the interests of more than 400 officers. He says many officers leave the department for higher-paying jobs in other departments.

"They get to their top-out salary much quicker than we get to their top out salary, and that's an important issue for us and we feel like we need to get to that top-out salary quicker,” he said.

Since January, 74 officers have left the department, Dolan said, and 57 of those resigned. Of the 79 officers who left the force last year, Dolan said, 59 resigned – 17 during training, 13 to go to other law enforcement agencies and 29 for unspecified reasons.

Raleigh City Councilman Rodger Koopman says the police shortage puts the public at risk.

"It means we are not able to respond as quickly as we probably should in some cases,” he said.

Dolan says the department is working harder than ever to hire new officers, recently streamlining the hiring process and adding four officers to the recruitment office.

"It doesn't happen overnight, but it's starting to take hold. So we feel real good about it,” Dolan said.

The Durham Police Department has 31 positions open, while the Wake County Sheriff's Office is fully staffed. Dolan says he hopes to fill all current and projected Raleigh police force vacancies by the end of next year.

The starting salary for a Raleigh officer is about $34,291 a year. Durham has the lowest-paid officers in the Triangle at $33,000. Starting pay for Cary officers was the highest at $37,544.


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  • chfdcpt Nov 13, 2008

    "citizen782-remember that when you are in Raleigh, you are in the Capital. That means there are many cental offices for many different agencies. RPD, State Capital Police, SHP, Wildlife, US Fish & Wildlife, Railroad Police,General Assembly Police, SBI, FBI, WCSO, etc. That's why you see what appears to be an abundance of LE personnel."

    Also remember, that the only court for the county is in Raleigh. Therefore officers from all agencies in the county in addition to the ones listed above have to travel into downtown Raleigh for their court cases. Go to any courthouse in the state during criminal and traffic court, looks like an armed camp when you count all the cruisers from the different agencies.

  • Adelinthe Nov 11, 2008

    They have never paid them enough.

    An officer in Cary makes more than in Raleigh.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Jimmy187 Nov 11, 2008

    Raleigh Officers should be paid overtime. When they work too long and accrue too much time they are told to go home so they don't get paid overtime. Officers who are on light duty for injuries and officers in the military overseas are still counted as officers even though they are not on the street. They are expected to be professional but they are not paid as professionals. Raleigh used to offer the best pay and benefits in the state, now they are not even ranked in the top 3 of wake county

  • You are Funny Nov 11, 2008

    tarheelsdontlikeedwards: speeding is against the law just in case you didn't know. Also, vehicle collisions w/excessive speed "speeding" cause your serious injuries and or death so I don't have a problem enforcing speeding!

  • BadDayforButch Nov 11, 2008

    My son wanted to become a Raleigh policeman. Applied, interviewed a couple of times etc etc. Was essentially told they would love to hire him but they were being forced to hire minorities instead so that their quotas could be fulfilled. Must be not enough minorities are applying for the positions.

  • Common Sense Man Nov 11, 2008

    Morale (at least mine) where I work sucks too; I'm thinking of leaving and going to another department. Admin and the city does NOTHING to make you feel wanted or to give you a reason to stay. It's a shame and a letdown to the citizens when they don't care if good officers leave. It's all about having bodies on the street; doesn't matter how skilled they are.

  • Common Sense Man Nov 11, 2008

    "Yet they have time to harass the citizens with speeding tickets when there are not enough officers to work serious crimes."

    You're right. Speeding and wrecks claim far less lives than murders, so they should all be concentrating on those murders.

  • oldcorp Nov 11, 2008

    citizen782-remember that when you are in Raleigh, you are in the Capital. That means there are many cental offices for many different agencies. RPD, State Capital Police, SHP, Wildlife, US Fish & Wildlife, Railroad Police,General Assembly Police, SBI, FBI, WCSO, etc. That's why you see what appears to be an abundance of LE personnel. That does nothing to help RPD's shortage. I just retired from there and I can tell you they are at a critical state.
    ncguy - you don't even have a clue. In attempt at sarcasm I could say 'why don't you try it', but you, like most folks would not last long, or they'd get another officer hurt or killed.

  • NC Born Nov 11, 2008

    Citizen782......if you think SHP,ABC,SBI,WCSO, or anyone other than RPD will be answering calls and investigating crime in Raleigh then you are sadly mistaken...Other agencies are doing their specific duties in and around Raleigh but when it comes down to it only RPD handles Criminal calls in Raleigh...all by itself short or not with the other mentioned agencies calling us to handle anything they may drive up on or see.

    Looking at call volume our officers are stuck dealing with much more than counterparts in most other agencies, we are not better than them but have to make due with many more calls per officer than they do.

    We all joined knowing that it was not to get rich, but after seeing guys that you work with being shot,hurt,and emotionaly destroyed by this place it makes you hate a city that has resourses to compensate its officers much better. All we ask is for the City to keep up with the change in cost of living...they continue taking more from us while demanding more

  • WRALblows Nov 11, 2008

    "And there are plenty of college graduates who have not been arrested....."

    And have no desire or intention to work for $30K/yr. for 5 years when student loans are involved. That was the first sentence of my post. A convict with a GED can get more than that.