Todd Paris, Staff Writer and Salisbury Attorney
♦ Dateline Salisbury, N.C. December 23rd 2016
On December 9th, 2016 Salisbury, NC’s City Council and the Rowan County Commission met to vote for an “Inter local Safety Agreement” in response to a shortage in local law enforcement officers in that “the city is requesting temporary law enforcement assistance from Rowan County…” This would be a voluntary program for Rowan County Deputies with overtime pay and a bonus for them to work on their days off and eventually the county would be reimbursed by the city. The request was for 15 deputies to cover for the Salisbury which the City admitted publicly was 15 officers down.
This was apparently is response to the December 4th murders of Sharod Raheen Mathis in the parking lot at the Firewater Lounge on 122 S. Avalon Drive and later in the morning, 7 year-old A’Yanna Allen at 200 Harrel Street. The city admitted these murders were related.
The resulting gang war is already been well documented.
Unofficial sources within the city confirmed that Salisbury Police Department has lost or soon will lose five additional officers since the Inter-local agreement was signed bringing the department to twenty officers down.
On one team alone, there are 2 about to leave and 1 on administrative leave. There is also 1 more considering leaving. In a recent staff meeting, it was mentioned the department would be down around 20 officers, total. This includes a few who are being let go.
Salisbury Police Department was 16 down until last Monday when a detective was let go. That made 17 down. 3 others are leaving which will put SPD at the predicted twenty down. And there is yet another who is on administrative leave and unknown if that person will be coming back. SPD is now over 25% down on staff.
More staffing problems are on the horizon as four experienced officers are planning to retire starting February 1st. All are said to be retiring by the end of 2017.
Additional staffing problems will occur due to a policy next year that will fire officers who can’t pass the Police Officer Physical Aptitude Test (POPAT) that they passed as younger officers during their Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET). That may have been decades ago. Lateral transfers from other departments have already been affected as these experienced officers don’t want to quit their present law enforcement job and go to work for SPD only to get fired next year because they can’t do enough sit-ups or pull-ups.
Please note that none of these numbers includes the 7 positions cut for Fibrant several years ago. While the actual number of officers available is always “fuzzy,” best estimate puts us at 64 actual officers at this time and down to 60 when the others leave.
What does this mean? Two teams of uniformed officer’s work each day, the first works 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. while the second works 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Full staffing (what we are supposed to have) is two supervisors and nine “beat cars” per shift. There are four teams, so that’s 44 uniformed officers. Minimum staffing is 1 supervisor and 6 beat cars. That requires seven uniformed officers, times four teams for a total of 28.
Because of the Fibrant debacle draw down, vacations, sick days, court dates and emergencies patrol officers are routinely working with less than the bare minimum and rarely are fully staffed.
The next time you call SPD and it takes them forever to show or there is no response at all, remember there are around 28 people covering a job designed years ago for 44 and there’s much, much more crime now.
There is one last thing to consider. It costs about 100K per year for the full expense of a SPD police officer. That’s salary, car, gas, retirement, and benefits – “the whole shebang.” Every unfilled position saves the city 100K that can be poured into the 3 Million dollar per year Fibrant deficit. 15 unfilled positions saves the city 1.5 million per year. But does it save lives in Salisbury?
When you sit back and enjoy live- streaming on your heavily subsidized broadband, remember there is an additional price to be paid. Salisbury, your police department is headed south and yes, that’s exactly what I told folks two years ago when I lost my election for City Council to two grandmothers and a banker.