CAROLINA BEACH — The Town of Carolina Beach is facing a policing problem after multiple police officers from the department resigned and took positions with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.
But according to the town’s human resource director Holly Brooks, over the past two months, only one Carolina Beach Police Department (CBPD) employee has resigned.
“The Town of Carolina Beach has thirty-five (35) active employees in the Police Department. Of these thirty-five (35), thirty-three (33) are Sworn Law Enforcement Officers, and two (2) are Non-Sworn administrative staff,” Brooks said.
But according to reporting from The Island Gazette, the department is about to lose four police officers following the loss of two officers, Samantha Macon and Eric Tello.
“Last week four officers – including Stewart Henderson – resigned effective Feb. 14th and 15th. Those officers are Dexter Soward, Steve Dillion, and Aaron Naughton. All of those officers – as well as Macon and Tello – made personal decisions to work at the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department. Prior to those resignations the annual budget for the Police Department already included an additional three positions the department had been unable to fill,” according to The Gazette.
New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office (NHCSO) Spokesman Lt. Jerry Brewer confirmed that the county has hired seven former Carolina Beach officers as new deputies, three over the last six months, and four additional hires set to start work on or about Feb. 22.
Brooks confirmed the department currently has three unfilled positions but said the town does not expect a change in appropriate staffing levels. On a list of police personnel, these officers are still listed as employed by CBPD.
Brooks was unable to confirm whether or not the officers named have notified the department of their intentions to resign.
Mayor Joe Benson addressed the issue facing the town and acknowledged it was brought to the attention of himself and Town Council.
As for an explanation, Benson said it was not an issue of pay since the officers will be taking a pay cut to work for New Hanover County. Instead, he believes it has to do with the limited upward mobility available in the small beach town.
“I applaud the chief and the town for commissioning a pay study, while it wasn’t at the core of this ‘exodus,’ paying our officers similar to other sized communities is necessary,” Benson said.
He also wanted to express that in this situation he did not believe it was due to poor management from command staff. As to why the officers are all leaving at the same time, Benson said it comes down to when the county wants to on-board and train new hires.
No changes to patrols
Brooks said the department did not expect any major changes in staffing levels or patrol in the upcoming months.
“The Town continues to maintain appropriate staffing levels for all areas of police work. Each Uniformed Patrol Division shift is staffed with four Sworn Law Enforcement Officers. The Town does not anticipate any changes to shift staffing levels,” Brooks said.
During a town budget meeting in April of 2018, Police Chief Chris Spivey admitted the town was understaffed already and officers had been moving out of the beach town.
“In the last two or three years, we have not had a full roster of personnel … we find that people are moving to other areas interested in other parts of law enforcement. They are interested in other departments, there are a couple of officers that are relocating for urgent family matters,” Spivey said.
Retention of police officers is not a unique problem to Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach is also facing an issue with police officers leaving for other agencies.
Michael Praats can be reached at Michael.P@Localvoicemedia.com