The Greensboro Police Department is short 129 officers out of a budgeted force of 689.

It’s getting close to a 20 percent vacancy rate and is going to climb at a faster rate this year because of a federal program in the early 1990s that temporarily paid the salaries of new officers.  Because of that program Greensboro hired more officers than usual 30 years ago, and those officers are now becoming eligible for retirement.

The Greensboro Police Academy graduated 13 new officers on March 7.  To stay even at 129 vacancies that class needed to graduate at least 30 officers.

There are a number of reasons why Greensboro can’t recruit more officers, but one reason that’s easy to fix is that Greensboro doesn’t pay nearly as much as other law enforcement agencies in the state.

Right next door in Alamance County, Burlington is starting officers at $55,411 a year compared to $44,583 in Greensboro.

After six months, police officers in Burlington get a 2.5 percent raise. So after six months on the job, police officers in Burlington are being paid $56,796 while police officers in Greensboro are being paid $44,583.

In Burlington, police officers also receive tuition reimbursement and longevity pay after five years. Of course, like every other competing law enforcement agency in the state, Burlington provides take home police cars for patrol officers.

In Greensboro, officers start at $44,583 a year plus a signing bonus of $2,200.  So in Greensboro the starting salary is over $10,000 less than in Burlington. Another way to put that is that in Burlington police officers are paid over 24 percent more than in Greensboro.

According to the Greensboro Police Department website, with three years’ experience an officer can expect to be making $45,000 to $46,000.  Even at the upper end of that range after working for three years in Greensboro, an officer can expect to be making $9,000 less than a new recruit in Burlington.

At the March 7 Greensboro City Council meeting, Councilmember Yvonne Johnson noted that the City Council voted to give police officers a raise last year.  But that raise doesn’t bring Greensboro police officers anywhere close to what police officers in Burlington are being paid.