It has been a few weeks since I’ve been motivated to write about much, but budget season in Huntersville is just around the corner so I’m sure I’ll have plenty to write about soon enough. Thankfully the local paper is a never-ending source of motivation whenever I’m in a slump. Serious question time – now that the Herald bought the Citizen and we only have one local weekly paper, does that mean the Herald Citizen is now the “only experienced, professional, legitimate news outlet in the Lake Norman region?”
The cover story of the Herald Citizen last week alerted readers to the alleged struggle all four local police departments (Mooresville, Huntersville, Cornelius, and Davidson) are currently facing over staffing issues. The story featured quotes from the chiefs of all four departments expressing similar concerns over staffing. But don’t worry, according to the author this feature story was totally not a coordinated media blitz by local police departments since he lets us know that these concerns were expressed in the same way in separate conversations without knowing what the others said.
Let’s start by admiring the lengthy but brilliant analogy (the reader knows it’s brilliant because the author even quotes Chief Hoyle agreeing with the analogy) used by the author comparing the alleged hiring struggles of local police departments to a small-market baseball team losing a talented prospect to the loathsome Yankees of New York. In this analogy, the four local police departments are your AAA ball club and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (“CMPD”) is the Yankees, get it? Except maybe the analogy isn’t quite as good as Chief Hoyle says it is because small-market teams expect to lose their best prospects to the big league and even the loathsome Yankees have to compete with other “large-market” teams to retain their best players. In addition, even the loathsome Yankees and their vast resources can’t pay a high enough salary to prevent players from getting injured or retiring. And maybe the four local police departments just can’t offer the same opportunities that CMPD can no matter their starting base salary. What if an officer’s career goal is to be the best murder police in the world (yes, I learned everything I know about police work from watching The Wire)? Fortunately our local departments won’t be able to help that officer achieve that goal, while CMPD offers far too many opportunities for an officer that wants to be good murder police.
Maybe the 140 or so words used on this brilliant analogy could have been better used asking some specific questions about the staffing issues facing the local departments instead of just running a story full of unfounded assumptions.
Here are a few suggested questions for the local police departments that the author can ask in a follow-up piece, and for Huntersville in particular since Chief Spruill states that his department is the most vulnerable.
- How many officers did you lose last year to CMPD? How many officers did you lose the past 5 years to CMPD for comparison?
- How many officers, if any, have you lost to CMPD since they announced their lateral hiring push back in November?
- How many officers did you lose last year to retirement?
- How many officers did you lose last year to relocation, being hired by departments other than CMPD (including private security or police), injury, leaving policing for another profession, being hired by the Yankees, or any other reason?
- If each respective town board approves a budget that includes salary increases for officers to match the starting base pay of CMPD, will this solve your staffing issues?
- How many current officers in your department were lateral hires from other departments? Should your department be concerned about poaching officers from other towns that don’t have the budget/resources to pay their officers the same starting base pay you pay your officers?
- None of the local departments list more than 3 current openings, while CMPD lists 157. Chief Dunn is quoted as saying that staffing issues in Davidson might be putting officers at risk because the number of officers on the street is below what it needs to be. Does this mean CMPD officers could be at risk as well due to their staffing issues and, if so, do the local departments have any obligation not to hinder attempts by CMPD to remedy their own staffing issues?
- Is CMPD’s staffing issue resulting in higher crime in neighboring towns like Huntersville? If so, what is the best way to remedy this problem?
- Is it possible any of the local departments are currently overstaffed and could afford to lose a few officers to CMPD?
Complex issues require serious analysis to reach solutions. Let’s hope each town board takes the time to analyze the complex issue of appropriately staffing their respective police departments before simply throwing more money at the problem in the next budget.