WRAL Investigates

With law enforcement under microscope, recruiting officers now more difficult

Posted April 22, 2021 5:20 p.m. EDT
Updated April 22, 2021 10:03 p.m. EDT

— Outrage at law enforcement over high-profile incidents like the death of George Floyd and officer-involved shootings have made it more difficult to recruit people to the profession, authorities said Thursday.

“We are working and hiring constantly to get that staffing up," said Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker, whose office has about 10 percent of its sworn officer positions vacant.

Other agencies likewise had double-digit vacancy rates among their sworn officers:

  • Raleigh Police Department – 10 percent
  • Durham Police Department: 13 percent
  • Chapel Hill Police Department – 20 percent
  • Cumberland County Sheriff's Office – 20 percent
  • Hoke County Sheriff's Office – 11 percent

The coronavirus pandemic has affected recruiting, Baker said, but so has the atmosphere around law enforcement.

"Policing is changing. and we have to be ready to change – the way we are going to be policing, how we are perceived and how to regain that trust that we once had in society,” he said.

Durham police spokeswoman Kammie Michael likewise said in an email to WRAL News that "several national events involving law enforcement contributed to a lull in our recruiting efforts."

“A lot of officers are leaving on a frequent basis," said Lee Turner, a lawyer who previously was a Raleigh police officer. “I think some of it is the atmosphere now – the atmosphere toward police officers and law enforcement in general."

Turner said he would tell people looking to get into the profession to really think about everything involved.

"Being a police officer is a very admirable profession, if you go into it for the right reasons," he said. “I would tell people they need to follow their heart, but at the same time, consider the atmosphere you will be working in."

At the Nash County Sheriff’s Office, though, the sworn officer ranks are nearly full, with only one opening among its 95 sworn officers, Chief Deputy Brandon Medina said.

"We actually have a wait list and actually called one in today and had an interview," Medina said, adding that openings at the county jail are harder to fill.

Although protests over law enforcement have turned violent in Raleigh, Durham and Fayetteville, he said that's not the case in Nash County.

"We had a peaceful protest. We walked with the protestors," he said. "Knowing the community is what helped us.”

Considering the current conditions, Baker said hiring is going well at his office. The most important thing, he said, is to get the right people for the job.

“Everybody is trying to find the best qualified people to join the staff and get this job done," he said.

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