CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has about 300 open police officer positions right now. On top of that, they are expecting a lot of senior officers to retire in the next year or two. Nationwide, recruiting and retaining law enforcement officers has been a struggle.
Major Brad Koch with CMPD thinks policing as a profession is at a crossroads. Police officers can’t work from home like many others now can, and he says new challenges were created after the death of George Floyd.
“Our community expects officers to be perfect and to handle every single call how they would want the call to be handled, and there’s a lot of second-guessing and armchair quarterbacking so to speak," he said, "and that’s probably the biggest challenge that I’ve seen in the profession over the last decade."
But as they recruit at job fairs and share their mission on their social media platforms, CMPD is working to shine a light on the positive and rewarding parts of the job.
“It’s a really gracious profession, a noble profession, and it’s a really needed profession,” Koch said. “Every single officer is a recruiter. Every single officer has that opportunity to make a positive impression on every single interaction that they have. The far vast majority of interactions are for us almost everyday interactions, but for a lot of people who call 911, it is the only time. It could be the worst day in their life and for us, it’s a Tuesday.”
It has always been a dangerous job, but as Charlotte grows, so do its problems. While violent crime was down in 2022, overall crime was up 3% according to CMPD's annual crime report.
Koch said the gap in officers doesn’t impact overall safety in Charlotte.
“I think if you need police, you can call 911 and we will make sure that we get officers there to assist you," he said. “We have plenty of staff, it’s not a matter of working longer hours so to speak, it’s more a matter of being strategic with our resources."
Still, as the city grows, the department wants the police force to grow with it.
The department is offering a number of monetary incentives to potential new employees, some based on what shift someone works, where they live, or if they speak any other languages.