HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — Chief Travis Stroud said a staffing shortage impacting the High Point Police Department could last years.
“The main goal is keeping our people, if we didn’t staff anybody else my goal would be not to lose anyone else,” he said.
Stroud explained there are currently 32 vacancies. Since August of 2020, they’ve lost 22 officers.
“It does get stressful at times because we’re kind of non-stop,” said Officer Max Suarez, who has been with the department for 13 years.
There are six patrol units, all are impacted by a lack of staff.
“It hurts us with being proactive because we’re usually having to pick up calls that generally would have more officers for,” Suarez said.
Officers are picking up overtime shifts to keep 14-16 officers on every team.
Stroud said the department has not had to draw officers from special units to fill in patrol. He says if things get worse, it could happen.
“If we had to move detectives from our special victims unit from our Family Justice Center at the courthouse, if we have a child sexual assault that comes through, there may not be anybody to investigate that. That’s alarming to me as chief of police, it actually doesn’t sit well with me to even say that,” he said.
He’s adjusted his own schedule several times to see the call volume overnight officers are dealing with firsthand and plans to go out on the street with officers next week.
“It’s sort of a temperature check, and it’s sort of a personnel check as well, to keep an eye on our folks to make sure the mental health is OK,” Stroud said.
The department already has a policy allowing officers to take patrol cars home. Stroud believes other policy changes now allowing beards and visible tattoos will help recruit and retain.
“We’re carrying an outer carrier, instead of just a belt now our officers are starting to wear an outer carrier where they can put equipment on their upper chest, get the weight off your hips and onto your major muscle groups,” he said.
The department is scheduled to retire six officers next year, not accounting for officers who resign unexpectedly and leave policing altogether.
“We will not be out of this staffing shortage for the next three years, I anticipate that I will probably be retired before we actually come out of the staffing shortage,” he said.
Despite staffing shortages, Stroud pointed out nearly all crime numbers are trending down in the city.
Mayor Jay Wagner told FOX8 if salary raises are needed to keep officers, he’s confident city leaders can make it happen.