Greensboro City Councilmember Hugh Holston must have learned pretty quickly that you don’t often get what you asked for on the City Council.
The Greensboro City Council has been extremely hesitant to take the necessary action to fill the ranks of the Greensboro Police Department, which is short over 100 employees, and vast majority of those are patrol officers.
At the Nov. 1 City Council meeting, Holston made a motion that the GPD and city staff develop a program that would bring the GPD to full staffing in 18 to 24 months. Holston got a lot of pushback from his fellow councilmembers but stuck to his motion with the addition that the report be presented to the City Council by the second meeting in December.
The report that was supposed to be on what it would take for the GPD to hire an additional 100 employees was given to the City Council at the Thursday, Dec. 2 virtual work session.
Although Holston praised the report given by Police Chief Brian James, it appeared that the phrase “without spending any additional money” had been added to Holston’s original motion.
For the Police Department to reach its full staff in two years, it would need to hire about 220 new officers during that two-year period because the GPD loses about 60 officers a year through attrition. Hiring 220 new officers in two years would mean that each Greensboro Police Academy class would need to graduate about 55 officers. James has said that the maximum number of officers a class can handle is about 40.
Another way to fill the gap would be to attract a large number of experienced police officers from other departments. But the recommendations of James is that police officers receive the same bonus as the city already provides for “hard to fill” positions, which in this case would be $2,208.
So all this does it puts the Police Department on par with the other departments that are already offering this bonus.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter noted that Raleigh offered a $5,000 bonus to experienced police officers.
James also recommended that bonuses be offered to those with prior military service and that the bonus for new hires who are bilingual be increased from $500 to $1,250 per year for oral proficiency and from $1,000 to $2,500 for those with oral and written proficiency.
James also recommended that officers and other personnel working the night shifts receive a bonus of $2,880 a year.
James made it clear that the bonuses and increased pay could be funded in the existing police budget.
Since the Police Department is currently budgeted for 111 unfilled positions, there is a lot of money available in what is called “lapsed salaries.” The total cost of those positions is in the budget which is salaries plus benefits. James is also using his lapsed salary money to pay officers to work overtime to fill in some of the gaps created by the 111 vacancies.
When Holston made the motion on Nov. 1, he said, “It’s time to stop talking and put our money where our mouth is.”
As a result of this report, the City Council will be putting no additional money into the Police Department but will no doubt continue to talk about the need to do something.