WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The national shortage of police officers is affecting departments here in North Carolina. Winston-Salem police officials say it’s become hard to recruit.

What You Need To Know

  • The Winston-Salem Police Department has 114 sworn vacancies right now

  • The past year and an half has been a struggle for the department when it comes to recruiting new officers

  • The department is also relaxing its requirements on facial hair

Training Officer Zacharie Jones is helping Officer Will Crews how to input arrests into the system. Crews is a new officer who graduated from the Winston-Salem police academy a month ago. He was one of 10 rookies graduating, and Jones is his veteran training officer.

“I think the biggest thing I've had to remember is, you're going to mess up. You're going to make mistakes. And that's OK. You know, there's nothing wrong with that as long as you learn from from your mistakes,” Crews said.

Jones has been on the job for more than eight years and served as a field training officer over the past six years.

“I've experienced a lot, done a lot of things, being here and passing that knowledge and information to the next generation, so to speak,” Jones said.

Jones has a love for training new officers. He enjoys helping them learn their new day-to-day duties and getting to know the community members he meets on the job.

“Making sure that I'm giving them my best because, you know, we're humans. Do we have bad days? But we have to make sure that even though we're having a bad day, we talk to the citizen and come to their call, come to their need, whatever they have the same way every time,” Jones said.

The Winston-Salem Police Department has 114 sworn vacancies right now. And, according to Jones, they're making changes to become more appealing to the younger generation to join the force. Some of those changes include a 20% pay increase, as well as 12 and half hour shifts working four days on and off. The department is also relaxing it’s requirements on facial hair.

“Some of the strategies, obviously I have a beard. Those are allowed now. That's a rather recent thing in the past couple of years. We're allowed to wear baseball caps. We can wear those all the time now, “ Jones said.

And new gear they get to sport around.

“So we used to wear leather gear like the highway patrol wears on our belts. But now it's some cloth, so it's a lot lighter. We're getting out our vests now. We've got the new guns we have. It's just a technology thing. It's got a site on it, a flashlight on it. So it's a lot more appealing to the younger generation of, 'I like all of this new gear,'" Jones said.

The past year and an half has been a struggle for the department when it comes to recruiting new officers, the last academy class of rookies only graduated 10 new officers, but 214 people applied. The department has 194 applicants for this upcoming 79th academy class.

“It's on us to be the leader in recruiting for the state. We've got to make steps and do things that other agencies aren't doing to get that because there's so few applicants. So, we've got to be on top and in the lead on what we're doing to recruit people,” Jones said.

Jones not only trains Crews while on the job, but he volunteers his time on the weekends to attend different events to help recruit officers to the force.

“That gives us a bigger applicant pool. And we can run two academies a year. If we had the people, we got to stay on top of the recruiting efforts and on top of the bringing them to patrol. And that's why we're also focusing a lot on laterals, bringing people from other agencies in North Carolina and other states to us and getting them on the street as quick as we can because of the things that we can offer them that other agencies can't,” Jones said.