Greensboro Police Chief Brian James made it clear at the City Council work session on Thursday, July 29 that he is not a glass half empty kind of guy.
James talked in detail about the current staffing problems. The Police Department is authorized to have 691 sworn officers and it has 601 fully trained sworn officers. The department also has 45 officers in various stages of training, but 25 of those have been pre-hired for the next Police Academy class that starts Sept. 1, which means they are about 10 months from being fully trained sworn officers.
James also noted that because some officers are always on “limited duty status,” the number of sworn officers available for work is always lower than 601.
But then James talked about some of the advantages of being short 90 officers. He said the Greensboro Police Department (GPD) had to learn to do more with less and take a hard look at things they were doing that maybe they didn’t need to do or that somebody else could do better.
He said, “Because we are so short staffed, it’s really making us drill down and look at how we spend our time.”
James added, “We’re making sure that we are using the resources we do have as best we can.”
James noted that the newly formed behavioral response team handled calls involving mental health issues much more efficiently than regular patrol officers.
For example, according to James, the Police Department spends 17,000 man hours a year at traffic accidents that only resulted in property damage. He said he thought non-sworn personnel could handle accidents that only involved property damage and the City of Greensboro has asked the North Carolina legislature to pass a bill that would allow Greensboro to set up that program.
James said that they were also looking at a better way to handle false alarms. He said that about 99 percent of the alarm calls the Police Department are called to are false and the GPD is now researching how other cities are handling the same issue and will be making a recommendation soon.
James said that they need to graduate about 40 recruits from the two police academy classes a year for the next few years to get back to full strength and they hoped they would be close to that number for the class that starts on Sept. 1. The current class graduates August 18 and has 17 recruits, which will put the GPD further in the hole as far as sworn officers. The GPD needs to have 30 recruits graduate from each class just to stay even.
But James said that when they did get up to full force, it would be a much better Police Department because of all they were learning being shorthanded.
Most people would look at being down 90 officers and see the glass as half empty, James clearly is seeing it as half full.