Eastern Carolina law enforcement agencies facing staffing shortages

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Law Enforcement agencies across the country are experiencing staffing shortages, and Eastern Carolina is no exception.

New recruits are in short supply and retirement rates are on the rise in The United States.

During 2020-2021 resignations among police officers increased by 18% compared to previous years according to a national survey from the Police Executive Research Forum.

In 2021, new officer hiring was down 3.9% compared to 2019, with 23.6% more retirements, and an uptick of 42.7% more resignations according to the survey.

For Jacksonville police, the shortage put a strain on their specialized divisions, including their intelligence departments, school resource officers, and traffic divisions.

Lieutenant Mark Ketchum who works with the hiring and training divisions, says they are currently looking to fill nine positions.

The department recently received a grant that will give them six additional positions as well.

As calls for service increase, Ketchum says that the department needs to prioritize them due to not having enough officers to be at numerous locations.

Over the last year, Jacksonville Police has been looking to fill their patrol positions so that they can shift their focus back to their specialized divisions, which is slowly starting to get back on track.

“Where we see the problems come in is our specialized divisions. Right now we are just now getting to the point to where we can start to increase our patrol divisions and our specialized divisions, investigative divisions, our traffic divisions, community services,” Lieutenant Ketchum said.

As shortages continue, the vacancies begin to reflect on response times for officers.

“You’re going to have officers taking longer to get to the call so citizens will be waiting longer so we have to prioritize. We have to be strategic when we are trying to figure out where we are going. So saying that we are going to keep the officers on the patrol divisions as long as they’re needed on the patrol divisions,” Lieutenant Ketchum said.

The Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office and Onslow county Sheriff’s Office remain high on the list of agencies experiencing shortages. Onslow County currently has 10 officer vacancies and 20 detention officer vacancies.