Mental health a key focus as Myrtle Beach police look to retain, recruit officers

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 6:30 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach police presented new ideas and plans to the city council during Thursday’s workshop about addressing both the retention and recruitment issues the department has been facing.

Myrtle Beach police Capt. Eric DiLorenzo said addressing officers’ mental health is a top priority.

“The national sentiment, the demands that they have from simply being a Myrtle Beach police officer, long hours, hot environment, very very busy, we have to do more to make sure they’re at the very top of their game,” he said.

DiLorenzo said addressing mental health can address frustrations and burnout officers on the force may face. They have some mental health and peer support services available now, but they want more officers to take advantage of it and have more resources available.

“Talking to a mental health professional, officers are worried about the implications of that, if they do share, they’ll be deemed not fit for duty, this isn’t about that,” he added.

Other plans include making shifts shorter. They’re also undergoing a compensation plan study and considering raising salaries again. But DiLorenzo said another big way to address burnout and help with retention is by recruiting more officers.

The department has 40 open spots and recruiting new officers is competitive. Officials with the Horry County Police Department said they have 32 open vacancies as well.

“Every agency is going after the same applicant pool. Officers historically used to apply to one or two agencies, those days are gone. You know how competitive the job market is trying to hire people and we are feeling the effects of that,” DiLorenzo said.

He said the new hiring incentive to help with moving expenses from the city has helped them so far. They’re also making sure applicants know how high support is for police throughout the community.

“It’s not just about pay, pay is one of many different factors. We’re committed to setting ourselves apart,” he added.

Another issue with recruiting is the timeline. Any delay can cause applicants to look elsewhere. So no more waiting to hire candidates all at once.

DiLorenzo said they want to onboard applicants once they’re hired and have them start supplemental jobs right away, rather than waiting for a full class to start training.

And while they need more officers on the streets, DiLorenzo said they won’t lower their standards.

“Not everyone can be a Myrtle Beach police officer and we take pride in that,” he said.

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