By not increasing the funding for the Greensboro Police Department (GPD), the City Council is stealthily defunding the police.
The GPD has a huge vacancy problem, but the solution is simple – money.
The GPD was the only department in the city that was cut during the budget process this year and it was cut by $1 million. Raises in the GPD have not kept up with raises, not just in peer cities but in much smaller cities in North Carolina.
Yet the City Council recently dumped $59.4 million in American Rescue Plan money in its general fund, so the city has an excess of money.
If the City Council wants to solve the problem, it should raise police salaries above most jurisdictions in the state so that those seeking a job in law enforcement will consider applying to Greensboro.
The bottom line is Greensboro has a huge deficit in sworn officers because the salaries and benefits in Greensboro are not competitive with the market. It’s the law of supply and demand. Currently the demand for police officers is high and the supply is low. You might say that it is a police recruits market.
Plus, Greensboro has to pay more to attract officers because Greensboro is a more difficult place for police officers to work. We have more crime than smaller cities and we have more and more vocal police protestors. In addition, the City Council has a well-deserved reputation for not supporting police officers who were just doing their jobs. When the protestors come around or somebody files a lawsuit, the City Council caves. The City Council can’t change the past, and that well-deserved reputation is going to cost the taxpayers money, because police officers are going to have to be paid more to come work in the anti-police environment the City Council has created.
But the City Council can change the future and support the GPD not just with adequate funding but also by standing behind the police officers who handled a difficult situation to the best of their ability and in compliance with their training and the law.
The GPD has 108 vacancies in sworn officers. That means the department is authorized to have 691 sworn officers and it has 583.
Interim Police Chief Teresa Biffle recently told the City Council that the problem is getting worse, not better. The GPD will have at most 27 new officers on the streets in the next year, but during the same time will lose about 60 officers, most to retirement.
The responses to recruitment efforts are nowhere near what they once were. People aren’t applying for jobs with the GPD and the Greensboro Police Academy classes – which need to be in the 30s just for the GPD to stop the bleeding and are in the teens or worse. From the last Police Academy class to graduate there are currently 12 officers in field training. To maintain the current level of sworn officers there should be 30 or more in field training and more than 30 in the current Police Academy class, which now has 15. And, as Biffle warned the City Council, that number is expected to drop before graduation.
The City Council also has to spend the money to provide police officers with take-home patrol cars. This is considered a major perk by police officers, and whether the City Council thinks it’s necessary or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that not having take-home cars keeps many interested in a career in law enforcement from considering Greensboro. With the $59.4 million in ARP money, the City Council could easily pay for perks like take-home police cars.
Along with raising the base pay for all officers the city also needs to offer incentives equal or above what other cities are offering. If Greensboro wants police officers with college degrees, it has to pay those officers more because they will get paid more by other cities.
Another option is for the City Council to continue doing what it has been doing, which is not much. And in a couple of years, instead of having a deficit of 108 police officers Greensboro will have a deficit of 216 police officers – or it could be much higher because at some point there will be a snowball effect and police officers will be resigning in droves because they can’t handle the working conditions.
It’s the City Council’s choice, spend the money to fix the problem or ignore it and let it continue to get worse.