The Thomson Police Department hasn't had three vacancies at the same time before, at least not in the memory of long-time Chief John Hathaway.
Former Assistant Chief John Holiman retired late last year. Officer Richard Redd died in a motorcycle accident on New Year's Eve while traveling to visit family in North Carolina. Officer Chris Bailey took a law enforcement job elsewhere in the area.
The vacancies have hit the TPD but not nearly hard enough to knock it off its feet, according to Chief Hathaway.
"We're still taking care of business," he said. "We've shuffled folks around to cover spots. We'd like to be back to full strength."
He added that filling shifts with the officers available has caused a few to switch from nights to days, but all shifts have been covered without the use of overtime. Chief Hathaway said filling the two officer slots to end the shuffle is the top priority.
So far the search for new officers has consisted of advertising the slots and communicating with the police academy. Some individuals put themselves through the academy instead of being sponsored by a department.
Several of those may be interested in applying at the TPD soon, but Chief Hathaway said finding the right fit for his department is more complicated than hiring just to fill a spot.
"I would rather work short until I can find some good applicants to come in than to just hire somebody and put them in there and six months down the road be in the same situation I'm in now," he said.
"It's not the highest paid field that you can get into," Chief Hathaway added. "You can find people that want to work, but finding good qualified applicants is real tough."
The position of assistant chief is already closed, according to Chief Hathaway. Thomson City Administrator Bob Flanders said the position is currently under review but that he is not ready to make an announcement.
"It's still pending," Mr. Flanders said. "It doesn't affect the manpower question at all. It simply affects the supervisory side of it, and the other two vacancies are just something that happens."
Chief Hathaway wanted to reassure the citizens of Thomson that although the department is still shorthanded, everything is fine.
"We're operating. We're not shorting the public any services," he said. "But if there's some applicants out there that are interested in this job, I encourage them to put in an application or come see me."