♦ The Salisbury Police Department is in crisis with critically low staff at a time when community relations are strained due to lack of public trust, questionable practices, and policing errors alongside a dangerously high violent crime rate. Police Chief Jerry Stokes requested SBI assistance in the form of at least one detective and also requested Federal assistance for the Salisbury police to address the violence and shootings that plague Salisbury. He re-engaged Salisbury PD relations with the SBI for investigative support, a connection not well-maintained under the previous police chief Collins.
Councilman Brian Miller attempted at the February 7th City Council meeting to peg Stokes as the agent of change for police and community relations. The Chief said he is not able to do much – if anything – now to improve community-police relations because his police force is understaffed to the point where barely enough officers are on duty to answer calls and investigate crime – even with off-duty Sherriff deputies backing them up.
City Manager Lane Bailey stated that understaffing is due to the police department budget is not the right size and that many positions were cut, citing the financial drain of Fibrant. There were multiple police staff losses during Bailey’s stewardship as well.
Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell attempted to blame a former City Manager for the police shortage, omitting that many police have left the department voluntarily and others were eliminated due to unacceptable behaviors since that time. She claimed that nine positions eliminated by a former City Manager were not the action of the Council. This statement was crafty, but untrue, since the structure of council-manager government is that City Council sets policy and the City Manager carries that policy out. The responsibility for policy that enables vast cuts in staff and results in low numbers of new hires in the police department rests on the shoulders of City Council.
City Council’s policies included eliminating positions in the police department in order to hide the devastating financial ruin caused to the City’s core infrastructure due its practices of funneling money to special projects and to the Fibrant money pit. As shown in the featured video below, Councilman Kenny Hardin questioned what actions are being done now to improve the situation, listing multiple shootings and crimes in the 24 hours before the meeting alone. Chief Stokes revealed he requested SBI and Federal help.
City Council’s mismanagement of finances through poor policy decisions left the city in danger. Placing blame on former employees or attempting a stance of expecting one employee, the new police chief, to undo the damage of Council’s policies will only extends the time that Salisbury citizens are not safe. Council will need to set a policy to cut funds promised to special projects and to the Fibrant debacle in an emergency effort to fund the staffing of their police department. Recent tragic deaths and public outcry due to a weakened police department ought to be enough to motivate the Council.