Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say they need to hire more officers to keep pace with a growing city and increasing demands. A Charlotte Observer analysis shows the department has more officers per capita than all but one of the cities to which it compares itself. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics says that Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s 2.27 officers per 1,000 people is at the average for U.S. cities of similar size. Chief Kerr Putney says the department needs to do more community-based policing that tries to address root causes of crime. He declined to say how many more officers that will take. In 2008, adding 125 officers cost $7 million and resulted in a tax increase. City leaders acknowledged that hiring more officers now could result in the third tax hike in five years. Mayor Jennifer Roberts said the comparison with other cities is a part of “the total picture” the City Council will look at when evaluating whether to add more officers.
The request to add officers comes as police are contending with an increase in crime in almost all categories, including a six-year high for homicides. “If I allocate four hours to two officers to do some proactive work to try to prevent future crime, then I have two officers that I'm short on the line,” Putney said. “So we have to get to where we're staffed to accommodate more of that because that's truly our mission. That actually keeps us from having that escalation of violence and those issues crimewise.” Former Chief Darrel Stephens, who now leads the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said, “You have to look at the amount of time we want to devote to community policing and problem-solving activity. If all you ever do is respond to calls, you never get a chance to fix the reason people are calling you.”