Local News

Durham Police Chief Defends Report of Understaffing

Posted October 11, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Police officers serve and protect. Durham city leaders say a recent newspaper article has raised questions about the level of their protection.

Durham PoliceChief Teresa Chambers disputes a report published in theThe Herald-Sunthat says only half of her officers were on the street last Monday.

After seeing the article, a city council committee gave Chambers 90 days to give a full accounting of the alleged shortage.

"We are more or less demanding that she continue working hard to get the people on duty, and if they can't do the job let's get rid of them and get somebody else," says council member Kimbell Griffin.

The story said there were 22 officers answering calls on the day shift on Monday, Oct. 4. Chambers says that is only if you consider uniformed patrol. She says the paper took a narrow look at which officers were available.

"We knew that with 35 additional officers patrolling the community in various capacities, from public housing to park rangers and a number of other areas, that the community was not at risk," says Chambers.

Cpl. T.J. Stubbs is among the dozens of Durham police officers on the streets each day. He cannot remember a day when understaffing has compromised public safety.

"If you did have a major incident, there are people that you could implore, like I said, the housing, the downtown patrol, traffic units," Stubbs says.

Chambers says on most days, the department has 70 percent of its operations officers available for 911 calls, though she admits some days the department does fall short of that goal.

On the day in question, of 43 uniformed patrol officers, 21 were not on duty on the street that day. Seven officers were sick, five were in training, three were on approved leave, two others were helping flood victims in Edgecombe County.

In a comparison with other big cities in the Triangle, Durham actually has a low ratio of residents per uniformed patrol officer.

Using the latest population estimates from the state planning office, Durham has one field officer for every 688 residents. By the numbers, Raleigh officers each have about 200 more residents to serve and protect. Cary has the highest ratio, but it also has the lowest crime rate out of the three cities.