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Turnover leaves APD in ‘staffing crisis;’ response to calls lagging
Sunday, 02 May 2021 13:59
By JOHN NORTH
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Since January 2020, the Asheville Police Department has accepted resignations from 76 of its 238 sworn officers, resulting in what Asheville Police Chief David Zack termed a “staffing crisis” in an April 27 email responding to questions from the Daily Planet.

The aforementioned resignations tally was accurate as of noon April 27, but Zack added, “More resignations are anticipated. It will take years for (the) APD to recover the number of officers we have lost.”

The resignation of 76 officers “does not take into account sworn retirements or terminations, nor any non-sworn employees,” according to Christina Hallingsle, the APD’s public information officer.

To that end, Zack stated that, “when taking both resignations and leaves into account, APD is down 35-38 percent of sworn staff daily.”

And, contrary to press reports elsewhere that described the APD as operating from a “crisis mode,” Zack insisted that, instead, his department’s challenge should be described simply as a “staffing crisis.” 

Regarding questions about the impact of the severe staffing shortage, Zack reported that response times by officers have increased dramatically. 

As a result of the staffing crisis, in some call categories, response times have doubled, tripled — or even worse — from tallies over several previous years’ numbers.

Zack added, “It is also important to note that response times are likely to increase as the number of tourists who visit our city increase and, in turn, (result in) increasing traffic and travel times.”

As for addressing the challenge of recruitment, in light of the defund police movement, Zack said, “In August 2020, the Ashevlle Police Department hired six new employees to begin Basic Law Enforcement Training. Of those six employees, three resigned before their field training was completed. In January of 2021, eight new employees were hired to begin BLET. Of those eight, one has already resigned.”

He added, “Like in every profession, organizations that support their employees and offer market rates, competitive pay, are able to retain employees longer and attract quality employees. In the March 9 City Council budget work session, City Council heard the results of the Classification and Compensation Study. Over the next several months, this study will be a topic of discussion for the City Council as they prepare for the FY 2022 budget.”

Zack did not trespond to a Daily Planet question about the possible impact on officer retention and recruiting new officers of the presence of Kim Roney, a politically progressive member of Asheville City Council, who favors defunding the APD and, so far, has shown reticence toward spending anything on the city’s police unit.

Regarding word around the city that some private business-owners downtown are having to hire private security to protect their property from protesters because the APD is on a permanent “stand-down” order from top city leaders, Zack replied, “That is not correct. Due to the staffing crisis, APD does not have the uniform presence that we used to have. Many businesses choose to hire private security for a variety of reasons. Should downtown businesses choose to hire private security, that is their choice as business-owners.”

What is the APD’s position on the Leicester-based website Skyline News’ new “downtown terror alert” system in which, whenever it gets word that an ANTIFA or Black Lives Matter protest will be held in downtown Asheville, it sends out an urgent alert to warn the citizens, tourists and business-owners?

“The Asheville Police Department uses AVL Alerts (Everbridge) to issue a notification to all downtown business-owners and residents in the event that we learn about a protest that has the potential to draw a significant crowd,” Zack answered. “These notifications regularly get picked up and shared by local media outlets, as well as in social media groups.”

As for those who would like to help the APD recover from its staffing crisis, Zack said, “City of Asheville staff are seeking input from community members on the FY 2022 budget through a survey and virtual discussion sessions. For more detailed information on the budget process and links to the survey and virtual budget sessions, please visit https://www.ashevillenc.gov/news/how-to-engage-in-the-city-of-asheville-budget-process-survey-now-open-meetings-to-come/. 

 “Community members can also make comments during the public comment portion of both the Asheville City Council and Public Safety Committee meetings,” Zack said.


 



 


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