I questioned months ago whether low pay and pay disparities were the only reasons officers were leaving or thinking about leaving the Huntersville Police Department (“HPD”). Spoiler alert – they aren’t. Low morale is another major problem within the department. And while the salary issue may have been addressed by the town board, our elected officials have been woefully inept at addressing the well-known issues at HPD causing low morale. The morale situation has become so bad at HPD that sources within the department have reached out to me for assistance even though they know they are risking their jobs by doing so. No officer has been willing to speak on the record at this time for fear of retaliation.
So, what are some of the issues affecting morale at HPD according to these sources? For starters: high ranking officers circumventing the 911 system to hide their personal problems, family members of high ranking officers being given preferential treatment after being lawfully stopped by HPD, rental vehicles supposedly needed for investigations being used like personal vehicles, officers abusing the secondary employment policy by getting paid for outside work while on the clock at HPD, EEOC complaints being filed, and just all around wasteful spending on things within the department that don’t make the community any safer. I’ve submitted multiple records requests related to a number of these items over the past week and plan to continue to investigate since the town board is unwilling to do any investigation of their own. I guess you could say I’m only taking the banal advice from the dais to say something if I see something…
Another source of ongoing contention is the abuse of the take home vehicle policy. This abuse has clearly continued with the tacit approval of the town board despite my reporting on the problems with the policy earlier this year (remember those $1,000 SSPBA contributions? I ‘member…). The current take home vehicle policy is not only costing taxpayers potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, it also continues to be used as a reward for favored officers even if they don’t qualify for a take home vehicle according to HPD’s own written policy. Officer T. Seth Hager continues to be allowed a take home vehicle paid for by Huntersville taxpayers for his 80+ mile round trip commute to work each day even though he has only worked a total of THREE (3) K9 deployments so far this year according to data from the KBCOPS system provided by a source within the department.
Where is the oversight from HPD command staff?
Finally, the issue of overtime pay. According to sources, the majority of overtime is going to higher ranking officers, primarily certain lieutenants. One source described the situation as follows, “Some lieutenants openly brag about all of their OT, but they’re not even the ones responding to road calls. Most days we have more officers sitting in the office than we do on the road and by 4pm it’s usually a ghost town at HQ.” [Huntersville PD HQ is located at 9630 Julian Clark Ave. in the business park.] With crime being so low in Huntersville it would seem odd that so much OT is required, especially if that OT is going to higher ranking officers sitting behind desks at HQ. “We just have way too many chiefs and not enough Indians, too many supervisors,” is the root of the problem according to one source. The top-heavy nature of the department is a problem the town board is very familiar with after having just sat through many hours of discussion about pay bands and pay raises. The frustration with the situation was obvious when another source explained that, “When you walk into HQ you can even see certain lieutenants watching Netflix or youtube on their computers so why do they need all that OT when they could just be spending time in the office during normal business hours actually doing their work?”
According to town staff, overtime pay is counted as compensation by the NC Local Governmental Employee’s Retirement System. Why does this matter? Because all NC taxpayers are on the hook for the massive $40 BILLION in unfunded liabilities for state retiree pension and health benefits. If only we had an elected official in Huntersville who supposedly understands pension issues and could help explain the consequences of pension padding to the other board members…
Where is the oversight from town hall?
When is the town finally going to require an independent audit of HPD?
What is it going to take for town hall to take some action, any action, to address these issues affecting morale with as much vigor as they addressed the issues of low pay and pay disparities?
There is more to come. I am currently waiting for responses to multiple records requests and will provide updates once more information is obtained. But, the worst part is what I’ve described above isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. You can only hide behind a hashtag for so long before the truth is revealed.
My offer still stands. If you have any thoughts you’d like to share about the problems within the department, feel free to reach out to me. Your privacy will be protected.