At the Greensboro City Council public forum on Tuesday, March 7, there were several people who spoke in support of the Greensboro Police Department.

For the past several years there has been a regular cadre of speakers who rail against the GPD, individual police officers and law enforcement in general, and some of them were also present with the same old spiels.

However, it is unusual to hear people at the podium speak about the severe challenges the GPD is currently facing, in a large part due to the policies of the City Council.

Jim Bennett, who said he was a graduate of the Greensboro Citizens Police Academy, said, “Our department is nearing a crisis point down about 20 percent.”

He noted that the department was short about 115 to 120 officers and that the vacancy rate was climbing.  He said no department could operate effectively with such a high vacancy rate.

Bennet said, “The City Council must make policing the highest priority. What are you going to do to make that happen?”

Councilmember Yvonne Johnson responded saying, “One of the things we did in the last budget was we increased the salaries.”

What Johnson didn’t say is that even with the salary increase the GPD is still paying police officers less than most competing jurisdictions, not just in the state but in the region.

There was more bad news about the GPD in a Greensboro press release on Wednesday, March 8.  According to the press release, “Thirteen recruits graduated from the 113th Greensboro Police Academy on March 7, 2023, and joined the ranks of the Greensboro Police Department.”

With the number of vacancies in the department at over 100, it might appear that having 13 new officers join the ranks would be good news, but it isn’t.  For the GPD to maintain its current vacancy rate of nearly 20 percent, each police academy class needs to graduate about 30 police officers.

Each year the GPD loses about 60 officers due to normal attrition.  Most of those 60 retire.  Since there are two police academy classes each year, 30 officers need to graduate from each class to make up for normal attrition.

Having 13 only new officers graduate means that the vacancy rate is going to keep increasing for the foreseeable future.

Former Police Chief Brian James told the City Council that to start climbing out of the vacancy hole the GPD needed to graduate about 40 officers from each class for the next several years.  You don’t have to be a math whiz to know that 13 isn’t anywhere close to 40 or even 30.