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Police chief projects 90 percent staffing levels by June

Stokes

Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Police Chief Jerry Stokes says his department could reach its staffing goals months ahead of schedule.

During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Stokes said the Salisbury Police Department currently has 14 vacancies. Initially, Stokes said he aimed to be at 90 percent staffing by the end of the year. That goal could be achieved by June, he said.

“I think we’re moving in a good direction with staff,” he said.

At the start of 2017, there were 18 vacancies, Stokes said. Since then, the department has hired four officers. To achieve 90 percent staffing, Stokes said, the department would need to reduce the number of vacancies to eight.

When filling those vacancies, Stokes said, he intends to set high standards.

“Not everybody gets to be a police officer, and not everybody gets to be a Salisbury police officer,” Stokes said. “There are high standards that I have, and we hold to those. We are not going to compromise.”

He said police officers have expressed a preference for a department that’s short on officers rather than one that hires unqualified officers.

In a promotional poster for new officers, the Police Department includes offers of $3,000 in relocation assistance and multiple sign-on bonuses. Those bonuses include $750 for Basic Law Enforcement Training graduates, $5,000 for out-of-state lateral transfers or $5,000 for lateral transfers in North Carolina.

After Stokes’ update, Councilman Brian Miller said it’s important for the City Council to support the police.

“The bottom line is we care about what you guys are doing,” he said. “I know that there’s a lot of voices in the community that are critical of the work that you do. We do care about what you do, and we thank you for what you’re doing.”

Mayor Karen Alexander added that she has talked with a number of people over the previous week who expressed support for the work being done by Stokes and the Police Department.

Stokes’ update included a number of other miscellaneous items, including:

• Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook last week organized a meeting that included representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina, State Bureau of Investigation and Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.

Stokes said Cook wanted to push forward a plan about what help federal agencies might be able to offer to combat local crime problems. The meeting produced a plan that includes federal agencies helping with ongoing investigations.

• Stokes clarified how hiring works for the Police Department.

The first step is a written test. People deemed eligible after that go before an interview panel. Candidates then go through a background investigation that includes a polygraph test. Once that’s completed, Stokes and the Police Department’s three captains review the person’s file and interviews him, then decides whether to hire him.

Stokes said there has been confusion that another city department handles the hiring process. With input from the department’s three captains, Stokes said, he makes hiring decisions.

• He said the Police Department this week began training called fair and impartial policing. The training provides a scientifically based understanding of bias, which can manifest itself even among well-intentioned officers, he said.

“Because we, as the Police Department, employ humans, we need to implement what’s called a comprehensive program to produce fair and impartial policing,” Stokes said.

This week’s training is part of a comprehensive program, he said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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