02/10/10 — Police nearly fully staffed

View Archive

Police nearly fully staffed

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on February 10, 2010 1:47 PM

The ranks of Goldsboro's Police Department are as full as they have been in several years, Chief Tim Bell says.

Of 116 available officer positions, Bell said this week that all but four are currently filled.

Bell said it had been "probably five or six years" since the department's sworn units have been so well stocked.

The department's increased staffing came to light when city Finance Director Kaye Scott informed City Council members in a recent meeting that a budget shortfall could result from an underestimation of salaried positions, particularly in the police department.

Mrs. Scott said no budget changes have been made yet, but a line item for $512,000 in the general fund for salaries could leave a shortfall of $330,000 for the actual number of filled city positions.

"If everything stays the same for the rest of the year, that means the job openings stay where they are now ... we could have a possible shortfall of $330,000," said Mrs. Scott.

The police department wasn't the only one in which the actual number of employees outpaced the city's general fund projections to pay for them.

Positions in the fire, sanitation, streets and storms, planning, garage and recreation and parks departments all contributed to the potential shortfall, the finance director said.

"Police historically had more openings, which is good, because we've got more police officers out there protecting our city," Mrs. Scott said.

Bell agreed that having more officers is a good thing, and said that the lowest number of sworn officers on staff was during a dip to "12 or 13" vacant positions a while back.

"It's getting low. Of course, I mean, you're still able to do the job, but of course you want more people to work with."

The chief said he holds applicants to the police department to a high standard, which at times has limited the number of qualified applicants.

"I've set a very high standard, and they (new officers) are going to be qualified, and there's a lot they have to go through, before they can be hired here," Bell said.

Police Operations Maj. Mike Hopper, who oversees the patrol division among other duties, said that a having plenty of men and women available for duty enables him to plan with more efficiency.

"You can be proactive, instead of being reactive," Hopper said.

Hopper also said the police ranks are not for people who do are not serious about the job as a career.

"We don't want to hire somebody because (he or she says) ... 'I want to be a policeman. We try to hire people that want to make it a career, and not just make it a job that they get off in the afternoon, and go to in the morning."

Bell said that if a qualified applicant for an opening is not available, he will not hire someone to simply fill the slot.

"The public is going to hold you to probably a higher level than they will everybody else, and you will need to be able to meet that level and stay there. And that's what we expect. I try to know everything about you, and everything you've done up into the point before you are hired here," Bell said. "And if we find something that's not good, with past employment, or the way you've lived your life up to that point, then odds are you're not going to get a job."