WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The Wilmington Police Department needs more officers. In the meantime, current officers are stepping up and working longer hours than usual. That has some short on patience.
Last month we told you about an unofficial survey showing low morale in the police department. We dug deeper and found WPD is short 21 officers and has been asking and sometimes forcing current officers to work overtime to pick up the slack.
We found dozens of e-mails since January asking Wilmington Police officers to volunteer for overtime shifts. We even found e-mails saying it would be mandatory for officers to take the extra shifts.
In an e-mail to Chief Ralph Evangelous, one officer wrote, "What scares me, is that the officers are doing everything they can, just to keep up with the calls for service. Stress levels are high and most are so exhausted, it's hard to have family time when you get off."
Wilmington Police spokeswoman Linda Rawley says it's impossible to please everyone.
"Any time you have this many employees, you're going to have complaints," Rawley said. "I don't care if you had them work just the 40 hours, and I'm being very honest."
Rawley says it is not an easy process hiring new officers. She says it can take up to four months.
"This is a really, really tedious job. It takes a lot of responsibility, and we have to make sure we have the right people in those positions," Rawley said.
She says the department recently swore in eight new officers, but e-mails show WPD is still struggling to fill open shifts, and the excess overtime is costing extra money. Rawley says the police department budgeted a little more than $1 million for overtime for fiscal year that ended a month ago. She says they went over budget by a little more than $200,000.
"It's not unusual for an agency to go over budget," Rawley said. "I think if we went under budget that would be very unusual for us."
Rawley says the department has budgeted a little less than $1.2 million in overtime for this fiscal year. She says the department in in the process of hiring new officers.