Suffolk Police Department boosts recruitment efforts

Published 11:14 pm Friday, December 1, 2023

Suffolk’s Public Safety Committee returned to bring new updates in continued safety efforts. During its Wednesday, Nov. 29. Committee members continued discussions on finding ways of preventing crime. Among topics, the meeting brought key updates on the Suffolk Police Department, traffic enforcement cameras and the upcoming public portal. 

Interim Chief of Police James Buie discussed the department’s recent recruitment efforts following their recent police hiring event held on Nov. 3. Buie said there are 40 current vacancies, and also detailed that the department had seven Officers graduate from the academy with seven new hires waiting to attend the upcoming January academy. Likewise, they have three conditional offers out for Lateral hires. 

“We have one graduating [from] the Option 5 academy on Dec. 6, so what that means is they come from another state and they have an abbreviated version of an academy. So certain things we can accept from their state and certain things we can’t, so they have to do an abbreviated version,” Buie said. “We have 44 potential candidates in the background phase of hire. A lot of them came from our job fair…and we currently hold our testing twice a month.”

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City Council Member Roger Fawcett commended Buie on the “impressive” results of the November recruitment event while Council Member Council Member Leroy Bennett asked Buie if the department is continuing to provide through background checks on new hires, with Buie emphasizing SPD’s long-term focus on “quality not quantity.” He reflected on a previous hiring process.

“We had one judge that was trying to get information on a new hire, and we actually weren’t provided what we needed. So we actually drove to the agency, which is another state, and had our people check on it and brought it instead of waiting on them to get back to us,” Buie said. “I’m very confident that our vetting process and our background process is solid, because I get a lot more letters everyday saying why we can’t hire this person more than I do that we can hire this person. I get a lot of disqualifiers and not a lot of qualifiers.” 

Maj. Cassandra Garvin provided updated data on Suffolk’s traffic enforcement cameras for both the Holland Rd and Pruden Blvd work zones. Her presentation showed that the Holland Rd work zone saw 19,877 citations from June 15 to July 15. From July 16 to Aug. 15, citations dropped to 16,312, while from Aug. 16 to Sept. 15, citations dropped to 11,717. From Sept. 16 to Oct. 15, citations dropped to 8,155 while from Oct. 16 to Nov. 15 saw a decrease to 8,028.

For the Pruden Blvd work zone, 18,740 citations were issued from June 15 to July 15. From July 16 to Aug. 15, citations dropped to 9,183. Aug. 16 and Sept. 15 saw citations drop to 6,104 with Sept. 16 to Oct. 15 decreasing to 4,553. Finally, Oct. 16 to Nov. 15 saw a citation decrease to 3,380.

“People are slowing down and anecdotally, I’m sure people in this room can also attest to it. People are slowing down with these roadways,” Gavin said.

Statistics from June 15 through Nov. 15 listed that total issued citations were at 105,339. Total Issued Citations vs Court Hearing Requests were listed as 63% with 665 total requested court hearings. Finally, the number of citations issued to Suffolk residents was 14.7% compared to the last meeting’s 16%. Total vehicles with Suffolk registered addresses was listed as 15,504.

The Revenues and Expenditures portion of the meeting provided financial data on revenues, expenses and bus arm camera systems. Total cumulative revenue received was listed as $6,151,417 while total cumulative retained by the City was $4,037,507. The total anticipated revenue was $15,797,800. For expenses, the total cumulative paid to city vendor Altumint was listed as $2,113,910. Bus arm camera systems saw $17,000 in total cumulative revenue received. Regarding cumulative expense incurred, equipment was listed as $127,245. Subtracting $3,332 of mailing cost, the net cumulative loss on the bus arm cameras was $113,557.

On recommended traffic safety improvements, Director of Public Works Robert Lewis provided two new projects that are under way. An update of all school flashers is planned to be citywide with a cost of $125,000. Likewise, a pedestrian crosswalk for Kings Fork middle and high school is planned with a funding set for $90,000. Other projects under consideration include a right turn lane on South Quay Rd at O’Kelly Drive, Carolina Road sidewalks from Obici Ind. Park to Dill road and filling in missing gaps for the Kennsington Blvd and Hillpoint Blvd sidewalks.

“We’re always open to hearing other ideas and other suggestions. Again, many of these we got to do a little more work, you get a little more firm concrete idea of what they actual cost is and the feasibility and we can bring that back at a later date,” Lewis said.

 Director of Media and Communications Jennifer Moore provided a draft of the Public Safety Committee public portal that is still in development. The draft presented a new “See It, Report It: Online Portal” button on the City of Suffolk homepage that would take visitors to the portal, consisting of 10 additional button links. The links would allow residents to share concerns related to traffic, street lights, reporting recycling or illegal dumping issues and an additional “report a tip” link for the Suffolk Crime Line. Additional discussions were had on the style of the portal, including on keeping the focus on the Public Safety Committee as well as having each committee member have access to reviewing citizen comments to stay up to date on issues prior to future meetings.

The next Public Safety Meeting is set for Wednesday, Jan. 24.