CMPD already restricting vacations for February, March 2019

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It's a little less than a year away but police leaders in Charlotte already know that the beginning of 2019 will be extremely busy.

The NBA All-Star Activities will be the first of a couple of big events that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department believes will need all hands on decks for security.

"Come next February and March, some very unique, extraordinary circumstances are coming down to the city of Charlotte," said Major Gerald Smith. "These circumstances, we're not going to be able to give vacation days. We're going to have to restrict those."

WBTV obtained a copy of an email that the department sent officers last week notifying them a year in advance that there will be no vacations next February between the 13 and 17 in preparation for and during the NBA All-Star activities.

There will also be no vacations a week later between February 26 and March 2 for the CIAA Men's and Woman's Basketball Tournament.

Then, just a couple of days after CIAA ends, single-day vacations will be restricted between March 5 and 10 because of the ACC Men's Basketball Tournament.

"The reason for that is two-sided," Major Smith said. "You have the side where we want as much staff on hand for all the knowns and unknowns that we can reach our goal of increasing safety."

"And the other side we want to be able to take care of our people," he said. "You have these three events back to back and that's a large strain on the entire department, but we also want to let them know - hey, don't make any plans a year out for vacation during this time, don't plan family vacations, don't plan if you can help it – moving a wedding date if possible or anything possible so it doesn't disturb their lives or disrupt their lives as much as possible."

Mark Michalec, president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), says he believes the vacation restriction is about police staffing issues.

"They're giving advanced warning, but mainly because I think they do realize they're probably not going to be able to have larger numbers of officers where they can't accommodate vacation days," Michalec said. "I haven't heard it directly being directly related but that's just my feeling – because of the lower number of officers and the lack of officers coming in is the primary reason there."

The FOP has been sounding alarms that some officers are looking at other job prospects because of salary and benefits.

Michalec says the shortage and major events will take a toll on officers.

"It's just gonna strain the officers. It's gonna strain all city employees, to be honest with you," Michalec said. "Everybody is going to be stretched pretty thin and asked to do a few more and if the city has to do more with less it's gonna get to a breaking point after a while."

Now, Charlotte is about to submit a bid to host the Republican National Convention (RNC) in 2020. Will police staffing still be an issue then?

CMPD says back in 2012 when Democrats held their convention in Charlotte, the department was supposed to have 1,774 officers but there were about 26 vacancies back then.

Currently, CMPD says they're allocated 1,978 officers but the department has 170 vacancies.

How will the city handle the RNC if the police department is still facing significant vacancies in 2020?

"During the DNC, we brought in resources from all over," Major Smith said. "If our shortages were still short we would have to ask more departments to come in to help out."

"What I'm hoping for is they do increase the benefits and incentives and wages to attract the officers where they can staff it," Michalec said. "That's what I'm hoping for but I'm sure they're definitely aware of it where they need to bump up the staffing to get the people in there to be able to work these major events."

Major Smith says "we're still doing the best that we can to cut into those shortages. I would hope our shortages would be much less by the time that happens."

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