DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — On average, five Durham Police officers leave the department every month, that’s according to the Durham County Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).
FOP officials say there are 73 officer positions in the Durham Police Department that currently need to be filled and there are 109 operational vacancies. While the operational vacancies may be filled, these individuals are still in training and not yet fully active in their roles.
In a Department of more than 500 officers positions, Smith said this means the number of vacancies is nearing 20 percent.
“To get above 100, that’s astronomical, that’s critical levels,” said Larry Smith, spokesperson for the Durham County FOP.
As of April 17, there have been 210 shooting incidents in the city of Durham this year, which averages out to about two shootings per day.
Smith said this shortage of officers makes it hard for police to solve these crimes.
“It’s going to affect response times when you don’t have as many cars on the street and then it’s going to affect clearance rates,” Smith said. “The cases stack up and you don’t have as many investigators.”
Smith said the department is losing anywhere from five to as many as eight officers a month and some are going to other departments that pay more.
The current starting pay at the Durham Police Department is $37,029. Over in Raleigh, their department pays their starting officers $41,000. Both Wake Forest Police and Cary Police pay their officers $11,000 more than Durham per year as the starting salary at those departments is $48,000.
The Durham County FOP is calling on the city to approve an annual raise for city employees which would be a five percent increase annually. But Smith said increasing the pay is not the only thing that needs to be done to recruit more officers.
“It wasn’t just the pay, it was about not feeling supported,” Smith said.
Smith said the “Defund the Police” movement over the last year has discouraged a lot of people from going into law enforcement.
Smith said some Durham officers tell him there does not seem to be strong support for law enforcement coming from the city.
He said one example is the word “Defund” painted on Main Street outside of Durham Police Headquarters.
“Knowing the city has the power to remove that, but leaves it, it affects whether they feel valued or not,” Smith said.
The mural was painted outside of headquarters shortly after George Floyd was murdered in June 2020.
“We understand people wanted to put a message out, but the officers think its time for that to come up,” Smith said.
Current data show that 89 percent of shootings from last year in Durham remain unsolved. That’s why Smith said it is crucial for the city to recruit more officers so the department can solve more crimes and save lives.
“I think the messaging to the officers is very important today, they need the city’s support,” Smith said. “The Durham Police Department is a very good police department that is very well trained. We need to keep our officers here.”
CBS 17 reached out to the city of Durham about the FOP’s concerns regarding the “Defund” mural outside headquarters.
A city official responded late Wednesday and said that City Administration has no plans to remove the mural at this time.