Down five officers at summer’s finish, the Wrightsville Beach Police Department will conduct a search for several new officers in the Fall. However, the most difficult position for the department to fill may be the pending opening at the captain position, as one of the department’s most experienced officers has put in for her retirement.
After 21 years on the Wrightsville Beach Police Department, Capt. Valerie Blanton will retire in December, police chief Dan House said, though she won’t be entirely gone, as she will continue to work part time for the department in property and evidence collection. Blanton is one of two captains in the department.
From the captains position to patrol officers, House said that the department generally must find a handful of new officers at certain points in the year.
“We’re not out of line, we typically have about five leaves we have to replace,” House said. “We’re right on average for any given year.”
A handful of other Wrightsville Beach police officers have also left this summer for other opportunities.
Officer Kassie Fuchs, a product of the department’s intern program, took a position in the Wilmington Police Department real-time crime center. The position isn’t a sworn officer position, House said, but it will give her an opportunity to work in forensics and crime analysis, which ties into her criminal justice degree from University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Officer Matthew Monroe left to work in a family business and Officer A. Jossler left for a position in the North Topsail Beach Police Department, House said.
While have vacancies in the department isn’t unusual, House said it is getting more difficult to find qualified candidates for openings.
“The pool of candidates that are out there is shrinking,” House said. “Police are tired of being beat up in the media.”
The problem isn’t just with the Wrightsville Beach Police Department, as House noted that the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office has more than two dozen current openings.
However, House said that both the town and the state are working on changes to help recruit and retain more officers.
House said he is working on a new recruitment and retention program for the town that he believes will be able to get support from town leaders. Meanwhile, the state is working on several new initiatives, including creating a fellowship program that would let officers pay off students loans after they’ve worked for a certain period.
Additionally, the state legislature passed a bill that lowered the police retirement age to 25 years, from 30 years, which House said could also help in recruitment.