Police Advisory Committee Members Express Concerns Regarding Retention and Hiring Practices of Police Officers

By / Letters to the Editor / Wednesday, 05 June 2019 02:56

This is a letter sent to the Carolina Beach Town Council earlier this week by a majority of the Town's Police Advisory Committee.

The Police Advisory Committee (PAC) Members wish to express our concerns regarding the retention and hiring practices of police officers. We also wish to express our disappointment in this Council’s unwillingness to address these issues, which are clearly issues of importance to both our police department and our community. 

While the police department is struggling with multiple issues, this letter primarily addresses the recent interview process for an officer candidate, herein referred to as The Candidate. 

The Candidate, along with other candidates, completed an in-person interview before the hiring committee.  All candidates were scored by each member of the committee and subsequently ranked based on their cumulative scores.  Subsequent to the interviews The Candidate was notified that he would not be considered for employment because he had scored the lowest among the interviewed candidates.

Seeking clarification, The Candidate made multiple calls to our Town Manager, leaving messages and requesting a return call.  After several attempts at contacting the Town Manager went unanswered, The Candidate called town hall as “a citizen” and requested a meeting with the Town Manager. Ironically, this resulted in a meeting the next day. 

During this meeting The Candidate was again told that the reason he was passed over was that his score was well below the other candidates.  When the Candidate questioned the accuracy of the Town Manager’s claim, a police department Captain was called-in to confirm the scoring.  The Captain refuted the Town Manager’s representation, confirming that not only had The Candidate not scored the lowest, he had scored the highest, and by a significant margin.

This should not be news to any council members, as you have received numerous calls and texts regarding these questionable happenings.  Who did the Town Manager receive the incorrect information from?  Our leadership is hired with the expectation of honesty and integrity, surely, he would not intentionally present false results to a very qualified candidate?

After further consideration, The Candidate was eventually offered employment; an offer he accepted.  The Candidate was well qualified and was a former CB Officer who was ready to come back. It is our impression that both CBPD and Chief Spivey were excited to have this officer joining the CBPD, especially considering The Candidate was a trained LEO and former CB officer, and would therefore be able to be effective in an expediated timeframe. There were no issues with hiring him before, therefore the whole process around The Candidate’s experience gives an appearance of impropriety.

Unfortunately, a few days before The Candidate’s projected start date on Monday, May 27, he received a call saying that “something had come up” and he would not be hired.  No other explanation was offered.  Not only should applicants be able to rely on a transparent and fair hiring process, if an applicant does fall short in a given area, they should be given the reason they failed to meet our hiring standards.  Our PD administration should be able to hire good qualified candidates without their hands being restricted by staff unqualified in law enforcement.

In addition to issues with The Candidate, we believe Council is aware of broader problems within the police department, and potentially with the HR Departments interaction with the Police Department. Why then; is this Council unwilling to address issues of this level of importance, including the manner The Candidate was treated?  If we allow these issues and actions to stand, where will it stop?  Who will be the next person lied to or mistreated? We do not want to believe that this Council feels it is okay to falsify test results, lie to applicants and otherwise jerk an applicant around by offering them a job, only to retract the offer, but neither have we seen any effort on the part of any council member to intervene.

As you know, our police department is severely under-staffed.  Over the Memorial Day Weekend, we had 3 officers patrolling per shift; our normal is 5 officers per shift.  It takes 3+ months from the first interview to get a qualified candidate in uniform and on the street. 

Since January 2018, we have lost 14 officers related to conflicts and operational concerns within town hall, including conflicts between the officers and the HR Director. 

Twelve of the fourteen officers left because they were displeased with working conditions for various reasons; the other 2 were forced out by either resignation or firing as well as both of our K-9 officers.  One of these officers was our Carolina Beach Elementary Resource Officer and promises were made to the parents and students that were never kept. 

To add to our community’s loss, as a direct result of losing officers, the Bike Rodeo has been cancelled and we suspect National Family Night Out may be next on the list.  We are going backwards – not forwards.

It was also brought to our attention that recently all members of the CBPD were called in for a mandatory meeting with the new Town Manager.  During this meeting the officers were directed not to communicate with PAC members or Council.  They were made to run PT as a “readiness” activity.  Some were in full gear and others where here on their day off after working the previous night shift.  What experience does our TM have that would warrant him personally directing our officers’ actions? Where was the chain of command when this happened? It has been confirmed the TM has since apologized to some present due to the inappropriateness of this requirement.

When we lose 14 officers in a short timeframe – we would think both the Town Manager and you, our council members, would be hyper-vigilant in your efforts to establish WHY and how to make corrections, yet that does not appear to be the case.  It should be noted that most of the officers who left took pay cuts at their new positions.  Contrary to the narrative, it’s not all about money. 

Up to this point most of the PAC members have never met or communicated with The Candidate. However, just having the knowledge of these events is reason enough to cause concern. Almost every member of this committee has been approached by residents asking what is going on with our Police Department.

Town staff has said they cannot comment on employee matters, and we respect that such a chain of command must be followed.  In that regard, staff reports to Department Heads and they report to the Town Manager.  The Town Manager reports to Council.  So, the end of the chain is Council.  You report to, and represent, the residents. 

So, we understand that the police Chief and police department employees do not work directly for Council. But the Town Manager works for Council, and Council has every ability to insist that he address these issues and that he do it in a truthful and professional manner, to the satisfaction of Council and in the best interest of the community.   

Several members of this committee have struggled with how best to bring these issues to light, including our possible resignation.  However, we feel we best serve the Carolina Beach Police Department and the community by fulfilling our terms and being a collective voice.  This is a matter of public safety and we feel it needs to be addressed immediately by our elected representatives. 

With Regards,
The Police Advisory Committee

Editor's Note: The Carolina Beach Police Advisory Committee met Monday night, June 3rd, and voted 5 to 2 to approve sending this letter to the Town Council. The vote was as follows:

Yay:
Wayne Rouse
Ken Hodges
Jeff Hogan
Melanie Boswell
Deb LeCompte

Nay:
John Coleman
Lou Messina

The original version of this letter included a statement regarding retired K-9 officers. That paragraph read:

"With regards to the two K-9s we retired earlier this year due to their handlers leaving the CBPD, one of those K-9s will be starting as a working K-9 with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s office in the next few days.  Both K-9s were retired and sold to their respective handlers for $1.  The K-9s cost the taxpayers $12k each plus the costs of training and equipping.  BCSO will be putting a K-9 to work at the expense of Carolina Beach taxpayers because no contract was written to keep the handlers from putting them to work elsewhere."

After receiving information from a sworn law enforcement officer, this paragraph was removed prior to publication on our website. We were informed that K-9's recently retired from service in Carolina Beach will not be going to work for another law enforcement agency.

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