Beach town police see rash of resignations

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The Wrightsville Beach Police Department has seen a string of resignations during the past few months, including three resignations in July and early August, town officials said. A total of seven officers out of 25 on the force have left since April, town manager Tim Owens said this week, including one officer who served as a reserve.

Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Daniel House told the Lumina News on Tuesday, Aug. 5 the resignations are primarily the result of officers looking for other opportunities or other family or work considerations. It’s just bad that it has resulted in a string of vacancies at the height of the summer season, he said.

“If the impression is that the police department is falling apart, I can assure you it’s not,” House said. “These people have gone on to bigger and better things, and I can’t blame them for it.”

Currently, there are three openings that would be considered critical, House said, and the department was close to filling all of them. Since the first resignations occurred starting in April, the department has had several months to conduct the interview process.

“It’s terrible because these vacancies occurred in the middle of the summer,” House said, adding it was coincidental that they all lined up in a row.

In the short term, the results have been fewer officers on patrol during weekday shifts, Owens said. Instead of the standard four officers, some shifts have been maintained with just three. Weekend shifts remain fully staffed.

Several of the officers took positions in different departments or made other career or life changes, House said.

Only one indicated that he or she was upset for being passed over for a promotion, House said. The officer didn’t like working night shifts and instead took a civilian day shift.

In one case, an officer who wanted to take a job with the North Carolina Marine Fisheries was hired by the department after more than one year of searching. One officer left on medical retirement, the details of which House wasn’t allowed to release, and another left to be closer to family in High Point, N.C.

In another case, an officer in the investigations division was hired by the State Bureau of Investigation. An officer who wanted to mentor children landed a job as a juvenile intake counselor, House said, adding the officer didn’t fit in with police work.

An officer who once had a career in finance and left to become a full-time officer returned to finance due to salary considerations, House said. That officer will remain with the department in a part-time reserve position.

“The last thing I want anyone to do is leave,” House said. “But I can’t blame anyone for trying to better themselves.”

Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair said Monday the Board of Alderman were aware of the resignations, but needed more information.

“It’s a higher number than normal and we’re trying to figure out what that’s all about,” he said.

Some of the resignations occurred when House was on personal vacation and also as he traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo., to personally receive the department’s certification from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).  House said he offered to cut short his vacation but Owens said it could be handled when he returned to Wrightsville Beach on Tuesday, Aug. 4. House was away for a total of three weeks.

The CALEA certification required the police department update its policies, House said. But while that system requires some additional paperwork, those new responsibilities only fall on three employees — the chief, Capt. Paul Burdette and an administrative employee.

“There’s sometimes a little duplication of paperwork and we’re working with staff to streamline the process,” House said, adding the resignations are “not at all tied to the CALEA process.”

email terrylane@luminanews.com

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