Raleigh's Police Departmentis authorized to have 636 officers, but after Friday's graduation there will still be 52 openings, a vacancy rate of about eight percent.
Officials say they are in process of hiring another 35 recruits for the next police academy. They will hit the streets in 10-12 months.
Raleigh Police Chief Mitch Brown says he is confident all the vacancies will be filled in the next year, in spite of how difficult it has become to recruit new officers.
"I think it's very competitive right now because of recruiting from the private sector, plus the strong economy that we're presently enjoying," Brown says.
Over the past year, a number of police associations have tied Raleigh's high vacancy rate to itslow pay. Raleigh Police believe the entry level positions will be more attractive this summer, when starting pay gets bumped up to nearly $28,000 a year.
The North Carolina Police Benevolent Association says the increase is still not enough.
"The rest of the country is already competing at 30 to 35 to 38 starting salary," says John Midgette. "California Highway Patrol is advertising in this area with a starting salary of $48,000."
The association had asked for a 20 percent across the board raise. Instead, they received a 13 percent raise for starting salaries. Experienced officers would get two to three percent more from the city.
The Raleigh Police Department does not believe the shortage has had any impact on the service it provides, citing statistics that show Raleigh's crime rate has dropped five percent over the past six years.