Chester Police Department facing massive officer shortages
CHESTER, S.C. (WBTV) -The city of Chester is facing the brunt of a troubling trend we are seeing across the country.
Chester Police Department has more vacancies than the number of officers on the force right now. The shortage is being described by the acting captain as something he is never seen before.
The police department only has 11 officers which include investigations and narcotics. The number of positions to be considered fully staffed is 27. That is the number of officers they are budgeted for, according to the acting captain.
”It’s just a pandemic right now for law enforcement,” says Acting Captain Wayne Levister.
When Levister made this analogy, he was not talking about the coronavirus pandemic at all. He was, instead, talking about hiring police officers and the difficult process it has been.
”We’re taking it day by day,” he says.
Acting Captain Wayne Levister says Chester PD is supposed to have four officers on day shifts and five on night shifts. There are about four shifts in total spanning over the 24 hours. He says, right now, that number is one to two per shift.
”Officer safety is my biggest concern,” says Levister. “As long as my officers get home safe, that’s my biggest concern.”
This comes as a lot of retirements have happened, but also many people leaving the city job to take up employment elsewhere. This is all according to city council members who have discussed it. Plus, the city just recently lost another officer who died. Chester PD says this officer did not die in the line of duty.
The police department is filling in the gaps with the help of Chester County Sheriff’s Office, a recent partnership to keep the city of 5,000 people protected. But Levister tells me staffing has never been this low before.
”I think all departments are facing this issue right now with people getting out of law enforcement or looking for more money,” he says.
It is the money that’s the biggest sticking point when it comes to hiring.
“People are leaving law enforcement because of the money,” explains Levister. “So, it’s hard to find qualified applicants to come and work here.”
When they do find new officers, most come uncertified, so it takes three months to get them ready to hit the streets. The officers go through a four-week training in-house, according to the captain. Then, they are sent off to the academy for another eight weeks. Levister says, to circumvent this, they are trying to hire certified officers. It only takes a week to train them and get them out patrolling, he says.
But Levister says they are going to do whatever it takes to protect and serve like the officers signed up to do.
”We’re battling and trying to do what we can to just keep going,” he says.
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