Spencer has some interest in officer positions, but hiring cops is a long process

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, December 7, 2021

SPENCER — Spencer Town Manager Peter Franzese said the town is expecting some applications for its open police officer positions soon, but getting new officers hired, trained and in the field can take months.

The town’s police department is down more than a third of its officers and last month minted an agreement with Rowan County to provide additional officers to fill out its ranks. The department also just lost its chief. Mike James retired from the job effective a week ago after 11 years with the town and is continuing to run for Davidson County sheriff.

Franzese said applications come to the town clerk, who then works with the department to set up the hiring process. Sgt. Mike File is in command while the town looks for a new chief and is the point person for hiring new officers.

File said it takes at least a couple months to bring an officer who is already trained on staff after completing all the pieces of a background investigation and getting certification paperwork returned by the state.

The process can take even longer depending on the hire. Spencer’s most recent officer hire, Phillip Brown, was hired as an employee to complete the 16-week basic law enforcement training program with a commitment to work for the town after graduation.

Franzese said the town has not expanded its online advertising of the positions beyond its website yet, but the Piedmont Triad Regional Council may be able to help with its own job portal.

File said the department is actively recruiting by word of mouth and he is visiting basic law enforcement training classes to recruit people finishing up basic training. He said visiting training classes is the standard method to recruit new graduates outside of sponsoring someone.

Franzese said the town will look at discontinuing the agreement with the county once town staff is able to cover all shifts, and that may only require two or three more officers. File said from an operational view there is no specific number of officers that need to be on board where the town could draw a line, rather operational capacity depends on their training.

File said all officers must go through field training when they are hired by the town. For new officers, that means 14 to 16 weeks of training with an experienced officer before they can work on their own.

“It really depends on who you hire,” File said.

File said when hiring experienced officers they still have to go through field training, but with their experience they are able to complete the training faster.

“A new recruit comes out with book knowledge, but the field training provides functional knowledge,” File said.

Franzese said he has had preliminary conversations with the regional council on organizing a search for the town’s new chief and is awaiting a proposal. He said the town is looking for a process that would take community and staff input.