Lowcountry Headlines

Lowcountry Headlines


Shortage of police officers impacts Lowcountry police departments

Police officers running

Photo: Thinkstock Images / Stockbyte / Getty Images

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Two police departments in the Lowcountry are working to adapt to the needs of the community after the industry as a whole has experienced some challenges in the last few years.

Some of these changes include an increase in pay due to high demand and low interest and more careful and strict recruitment selection and training.

According to the North Charleston Chief of Police Greg Gomes, throughout the state of South Carolina the profession is short thousands of officers. Gomes also said that it is now more difficult to get people to work in law enforcement and to keep them there, but he believes that his department is on the backside of these issues because of the relationship they have with their community. Gomes said he also believes that while the industry has faced some challenges, he believes these events have led to necessary and positive changes.

“I think some of it, you know, in light of all the things that happen nationally with some law enforcement officers making some bad decisions, unfortunately, it paints the whole profession with a broad brush and a lot of people kind of had this negative image of police that hurt recruiting. That hurts us attracting people. I think that kind of attributed to it, but I think you’re kind of seeing the pendulum shift, where people are seeing the need for law enforcement and good police officers. Now, one good thing about all those things that happen - it made this profession take a good, hard look at itself and see that there are things we need to do better in this profession. And I think you’re seeing that,” Gomes said.

Officer Terry Cherry of the Charleston police department said that they have also experienced similar changes.

“Recent events like the pandemic, social unrest, more job choices, and the rise of remote work have made it harder for police departments across the country to find and keep qualified and talented people,” Cherry said.

Both departments said that these changes start with the recruiting process. Hiring new officers is a task that they both feel they must put a lot of thought and time into to ensure an officer’s success, but also to ensure that they are deploying the type of officer their communities expect them to.

Overall, both departments are in agreement that the profession needs to continue to adapt and build a relationship with their communities.

In a statement from Cherry on behalf of the Charleston police department, she said “The Charleston Police Department values learning and development for its members as a key part of its culture and long-term success. They use both modern policing techniques and business strategies for hiring, working with the community, training, and making important decisions. To stay effective and meet changing community needs, police departments must keep growing and adapting.”

Gomes said that he encourages anyone who has any concerns to talk to them. He said he wants the community to know that he and his officers work for them.

“We’re here to serve. And really, I say it all the time: policing is only as effective as the community allows us to be. So, what I mean is if we don’t have good relationships with the community and they don’t trust us, we can’t do a very good job of going in their community and making it safe. So, it’s important that we continue to work together,” Gomes said. “If there are issues that come up or concerns that come up then we need to have honest conversations. Because we’re not always going to get it right. We’re going to make mistakes. And there’s things that we need to do better sometimes, but I think you know, if we can sit down, have open and honest dialogue about these things, we can reach good outcomes for everyone because at the end of the day, we all want the same things. We want to live in a safe community where you trust the police that patrol your neighborhoods.”

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