The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department isn’t the only police department in the county requesting funding for more officers.
While Matthews police chief Rob Hunter says he won’t ask for staffing increases for 2016-2017, Mint Hill and Pineville police chiefs say they will ask for more officers in the upcoming budget year.
“I plan on asking for additional personnel. With the town growing, we need additional officers to provide coverage,” said Pineville Police Chief Rob Merchant.
His department has 38 sworn officer positions. During the weekdays, 12-13 sworn officers are on duty. At night, five officers are usually on patrol.
At the opposite end of I-485, Mint Hill Police Chief Tim Ledford said he also plans to request additional officers. His department currently has 35 sworn positions.
“I am going to ask for three new officers for our department. I’m hoping that, for the first year, those salaries would be paid for by a Governor’s Highway Safety Grant. The next year, the town would pick up the tab,” Ledford said.
Matthews Police Chief Rob Hunter said his department will remain at the current staffing. The Matthews police department has 58 sworn positions.
“I’m not asking for additional staff because I know what the town’s financial reality is. We are still in recovery from the economic hit several years ago. As a department, we are in a safe position right now, but we certainly could use more sworn personnel,” Hunter said. “We would like to continue to develop outreach and educational services, but our first priority is citizen safety. Those other things may have to wait.”
Hunter said the number of sworn positions hasn’t changed in years, even though the department’s calls for service have increased annually.
To maximize their training and response time in crisis, the three towns have formed a joint SRT (Special Response Team) of 20 officers. Matthews has 10 on the team, and Mint Hill and Pineville each have five.
Sworn officers volunteer for the SRT and are offered special training each month.
When a crisis happens in any of the three towns, the joint SRT responds.
At a recent Pineville council meeting, Merchant brought in Karl de la Guerra, an expert on terrorist and active shooter situations, to brief elected officials on the latest strategies. Merchant said the towns already are following much of de la Guerra’s advice concerning the joint SRT.
The Pineville and Matthews departments spread their SRT trained officers among all shifts so one is always on duty to help assess crisis situations and command other officers until the SRT arrives. Ledford said his department is aligning the shifts the same way.
All three chiefs say they are aware of the soft targets in their towns – schools, hospitals, and shopping centers to name a few – but say they feel their officers and the joint SRT have the training and equipment to deal with whatever situation may occur. But Ledford said it’s important that the departments keep up the training and acquire new equipment when possible.
“We can’t sit back and think that nothing bad is going to happen in one of our towns,” Ledford said. “We are going to be as proactive as we can be, and be prepared to the greatest extent possible.”
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.