Princeton, North Carolina – After months of staff shortages, the City of Princeton Police Department in Johnston County is raising salaries in hopes of attracting new officers.
Local leaders hope the move will reduce the pressure the department is currently under as it tries to patrol at a high level.
Princeton is a city of about 1,100 people, and normally five of them are police officers. But in the past nine months, one officer left for a better-paying job in another department and another retired, leaving Princeton PD 40% understaffed.
“That left us with two vacancies, and that’s how we ended up at this point,” Princeton Police Chief Tyrone Sutton said.
With just three officers on his staff, Sutton said his department had been strained trying to patrol around the clock. In fact, Sutton was only able to speak to WRAL News by phone on Monday because he was taking a shift to respond to 911 dispatch calls.
“There is always protection available to the citizens of Princeton, however, it does not come without cost,” Sutton said. “It causes some fatigue, and it can affect an officer’s performance, and we don’t want to have that.”
The department tried for months to fill its first vacancy but heard from no one qualified. When the second officer left, city leaders decided they had to take further action.
On Monday, Princeton announced it would raise starting salaries for new officers by 22%, to more than $45,000 a year. City commissioners have also increased the police’s annual salary increase in hopes of retaining officers for the long term.
“I think we’ve given the chef the tools to recruit and fill these positions,” Quickshirts owner Mike Rose said.
Rose sits on the Princeton City Council that approved the plan, in part because he has run a downtown business for more than 25 years.
Rose said he hopes the raises will help Princeton’s banks and storefronts get fully covered again.
“I’m sure we don’t have some of the crime that other cities have, but we’ll definitely feel a lot safer with a fully staffed police department,” he said.
Sutton said that with the improved salaries on offer, he hoped to hear from potential new officers as early as this week.