'People shot, people dying': Police union talks Durham's public safety challenges

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham's police union fully supports Durham Police Chief Patrice Andrews and her temporary solution to staffing shortages.

The group is hopeful she will fix the deeper issue of retention and recruitment.

Fighting the uptick in violent crime while losing officers is putting pressure on Durham Police, especially the patrol unit.

DPD has 81 vacancies out of 537 allotted positions.

Andrews said starting next month through March, she and high-ranking officers will spend at least four days on patrol.

"It truly is all hands on deck," Andrews said.

READ MORE: Durham's new police chief: 'I am optimistic. I am a realist, as well.'

It's a short-term fix that the Durham County Fraternal Order of Police said it believes is critical.

DPD reports that homicides are up at least 58% this year (through September).

"You're down 20 percent of your police department, which is your primary tool of dealing with crime," said Larry Smith, a spokesperson for the Durham County Fraternal Order of Police and retired deputy chief of Durham police. "I do understand the idea of getting to the root causes and the social fabric. But right now, when the building is burning the fire department doesn't go to find out what started the fire. They go put the fire out. And right now I think we need to work on putting the fire out."

Smith said his colleagues' exodus from law enforcement stems from a lack of competitive pay, support, and politics around "defund the police" activists -- all demoralizing the profession.

His association said it is being optimistic that the new city council and chief are looking at ways to address these concerns in the coming year through a pay study and other retention and recruitment strategies.

"We see that happening daily almost now, people shot, people dying," said Smith. "That's the reality of this."

Smith said the association is also hopeful the district attorney and prosecutors are seeing what's happening and will work to keep violent criminals from getting out of jail.
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