It’s taken months to choose a candidate to fill one of two vacancies in South Bethany Police Department. On Oct. 25, South Bethany Town Council unanimously voted to reject the proposed candidate.
Because personnel is discussed in executive session — including an individual’s name and ability — elected officials were tight-lipped on their reasons for voting against that individual.
Also asked what council was seeking instead, Mayor Tim Saxton only replied, “Consideration of candidates for employment is a personnel matter and as such I cannot comment on it.”
Town council “most definitely” wants to fill the positions, Frank Weisgerber emphasized. “Our town is very important to us … it’s not like we’re falling asleep out there.”
Neither gentleman offered any other words for the public regarding the two police vacancies.
For 24-hour coverage, South Bethany Police Department needs five officers. Right now, they have three officers, plus the chief.
One year ago, there were six officers. Council chose not to fill the first vacancy in winter. Then two employees found other jobs in May and September.
Police Chief Troy Crowson wasn’t in the room during the entire council discussion. But when making his case, he felt that this candidate was dissected more than previous hires.
“[This person] was the only one that was really eligible, that could start tomorrow, that didn’t have to have any type of training,” Crowson said. “We’re continuing with shortages, and they opted not to go with who we recommended … I never though in a million years they would say no.”
Crowson questioned whether council’s hesitance were truly valid concerns over an otherwise “stellar” candidate.
“That was the only viable candidate I had … we’ll start another round of advertising,” Crowson said.
Ideal applications weren’t exactly rolling in either, Crowson said. From posting at Indeed.com, SBPD got 60 résumés, followed up to request seven full applications. Several officers weren’t Delaware-certified, which would require police academy. Others were rejected after background checks, or declined the position.
If SBPD sent a non-certified recruit to six months of Delaware Police Academy, they’d also have several months of in-house training. It would be a year until a new hire was roadworthy.
The uncertainty and rank structure have contributed to South Bethany’s lack of retention and difficulty attracting new candidates, Crowson has said.
There have been challenges and some upheaval since 2017, when town council hired a third-party review of police department policies, procedures, overtime and other pay structures. Around that time, six full-time officers (excluding the chief) signed a demand letter to the Town, citing concerns with overtime, holiday pay and promotions.
Last winter, town council adopted a more limited rank structure and nailed down a vacation/overtime policy, but hasn’t adopted a new written pay/raise scale.
For emergencies, people should always call 9-1-1. For non-emergencies, people can call the duty officer 24-hours a day at (302) 539-3996. If no one answers, try waiting five to ten minutes, and call back. If there is still no answer, call (302) 855-2980, and SUSCOM dispatch center can call another police station and contact the chief if necessary.
By Laura Walter