Short-staffed police departments struggling to hire officers

Short-staffed police departments struggling to hire officers

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Now that Mecklenburg County commissioners have voted to terminate their contract with the city of Charlotte for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police to provide police service to unincorporated areas, one option in the future could see other local departments covering unincorporated areas near their town limits.

This means police departments that are already short-staffed and struggling to filling vacancies will have to hire more officers.

Police chiefs around Mecklenburg County say this has not been a great time to hire and keep officers.

"They're just down with law enforcement as a career. They're not interested," says Mint Hill Police Chief Tim Ledford. "They're moving into the private sector and getting away from the negativity."

Police say veteran officers are walking away, in part, because of intense scrutiny of officer-involved shootings. Police say the public is not waiting to hear the whole story - whether a shooting is justified or not.

Some officers say the relationship between police and the public has changed, and that makes the job more difficult and not worth the danger.

Chief Ledford says some officers are opting for better pay. "They're making money in the private sector and they're not having to put up with all the negativity from the public," Ledford said.

WBTV checked to see how many police departments in Mecklenburg County need to hire officers.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police wants the city to bring on another 60 officers in 2017. Davidson Police says they're trying to hire two police officers. Cornelius has openings for four officers. Pineville Police said they are three positions short. Matthews Police said they need to fill one position, even though they just hired four officers. Mint Hill Police said their department needs to fill six vacancies.

Police departments say the perception of policing is also turning off potential recruits.

Chief Ledford, who is also a commissioner on the N.C Training and Standards Commission, says the people who are now showing an interest in policing aren't qualified. "They've got criminal problems in their background or they have financial difficulty and that makes it extremely important or difficult for us to hire if they've got financial difficulties," Ledford said.

Ledford says even getting potential recruits certified has become difficult.

"Community colleges that teach the Basic Law Enforcement Training Curriculum - last year they had 19 classes that didn't move forward because they didn't have enough students to make a class" Ledford said.

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