Interim Police Chief Teresa Biffle gave a disturbing report on the vacancies in the Greensboro Police Department at the City Council strategy session on Thursday, Oct. 13.
The City Council didn’t seem fazed by high vacancy rate that, according to Biffle, is going higher, and the councilmembers offered no real solutions.
Biffle said that the GPD was authorized to have 691 sworn officers and currently had 108 vacancies, in addition to 14 vacancies in nonsworn positions.
Biffle said that it was only going to get worse, with 12 officers who graduated from the last academy class in field training and 15 currently enrolled in the academy. She said that the current class started with 18 and is expected to lose a couple more before graduation.
As former Police Chief Brian James explained to the City Council several times, the normal attrition rate for the GPD is about 60 officers a year, which means to remain even, each of the two academy classes held during the year needs to graduate 30 officers.
Biffle explained that the best the GPD could expect this year was an additional 27 officers. According to the math, unless the GPD picks up a good number of lateral entries, by the end of the year it will be down an additional 33 officers.
Biffle said that a patrol division had about 100 officers, so one way to look at the current vacancy rate was that the GPD was down an entire patrol division. She added that because of a federal grant program in the 1990s, there were more police officers becoming eligible for retirement in the coming years than usual.
Biffle said that to make up for the lack of patrol officers she was having to pull detectives and other special services from their regular jobs and put them out on patrol.
Biffle said that some specialized units might be collapsed entirely. She said, “We truly need sworn resources to respond to 911 calls.”
City Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter suggested that the GPD try to get some help from the graduates of the Police Citizens Academy, a yearly program to introduce residents of Greensboro to the workings of the Police Department.
City Councilmember Tammi Thurm noted that while other cities offer higher salaries for officers with college degrees, Greensboro only offered a one-time bonus. She said, “That’s a huge incentive for people not to come to Greensboro if they have a college degree and want to be in law enforcement.”