SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – An issue gripping police departments nationwide is affecting some local police departments.
Chief Jeff Hadley with the Chatham County Police Department said hiring and retaining officers is a challenge, leaving his department 25 officers short — a 20% vacancy rate.
“That’s kind of hard to absorb as an organization,” he said. “We had to move some folks around on the shifts so we could balance them out. We had a specialty unit that we had to kind of table for a moment and put those individuals back into staffing.”
Agencies nationwide are reporting an overall 18% increase in resignation rate among officers, according to the Police Executive Research Forum.
The shortage at CCPD comes as the county is seeing a 46% increase in violent crime from last year. Despite being short-staffed, Chief Hadley is confident his officers are still able to do their jobs adequately.
“I know we have enough officers to fill our beats,” Hadley said. “What I worry about is, you know obviously people get sick and or they want to take time off or whatnot that we’re not able to — well, if someone’s sick we’re obviously not asking them to come to work, we wouldn’t do that — but getting them the time off that they earned.”
Up until the second half of 2021, the department was near fully-staffed, according to Hadley. Over the summer, officers gradually began to leave and continue to — with resignations in the past few weeks. Hadley said officers give a variety of reasons for leaving including pay, family and the national climate on policing.
Hadley said the shortage affects the entire agency and raises concerns about burnout among officers.
“We really try to treat our officers fairly and give them a voice in the organization, get ideas from them on how we can attract you know the best candidates for our organization,” he said. “They have families, they have children, they want to take time off, they need downtime and so we try to be very cognizant of burnout and make sure they get the rest that they need.”
To help ease the strain from the shortage, the department is streamlining the hiring process — shortening what can usually be an up to six-month process to be eight weeks. Hadley said he is making sure this is done without sacrificing any standards.
Of the officers to leave CCPD this year, Hadley said nearly half left law enforcement entirely. It’s something he said he’s never seen in his career.
“We are in a challenging environment in our profession nationally and certainly locally,” Hadley said. “But I think this is a profession to be proud of, it’s an honorable profession and I think you can really make a difference in this world — whether it be in your community or anywhere else and I still believe in what we do every single day.”