Citing an increase in pre-summer commitments, scarcity of reasonably priced nearby housing and the availability of other law-related internships, Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks said the city is having trouble filling the budgeted amount of cadets this summer.
During a beach and boardwalk committee meeting July 28, Banks said the police department was only able to hire 13 of 26 budgeted cadet positions. With the staffing levels down, the department has had to be more reactive than proactive this summer, he said.
Rehoboth’s police cadet program celebrated 50 years in 2022. Banks has been with the police department for 30 years and chief since 2001. When he first took over as chief, he said the city received 80 to 90 applications for cadet positions. That’s not the case anymore, he said.
Beginning with pre-summer commitments, Banks said a cadet has three three-day, 12-hours-per-day weekends of training to complete before they’re put out on the streets. Next year, he said, it will probably be four weekends.
“There’s more to it than ever before,” said Banks, during a follow-up interview Aug. 2.
Moving to housing, Banks said there have been cadets who get through all the training and then decide to back out because they can’t find a reasonably priced place to stay within a reasonable distance to Rehoboth. He said they’re working with local Realtors, and the city approved a housing allowance for those who need it, but it’s still tough for a college student to front up to $7,000 for summer rent and still have a college tuition.
During the meeting, Banks said the cadet program could be gone if the housing situation isn’t figured out. A few days later, Banks clarified that that program won’t be eliminated, but it will need to change. The look of the program could be different, which probably means a lack of arresting power, he said.
As for law enforcement-related internships, there are more options than ever. When Banks started, summer cadet internships were one of the few things a college-aged person could do if they wanted to gain experience in law enforcement. Now, he said, a person interested in criminal justice can work for a police department, an attorney or in the attorney general’s office.
Banks said the pandemic exacerbated the problem of hiring cadets, but the decrease in applications began years before that. It’s a cycle, he said, and cities across the country are having the same issues.
“It’s not just Rehoboth Beach,” said Banks.
Other police department trends this summer
Banks also informed the committee about other trends he’s seeing this summer.
There has been a spike in opioid-related overdoses. In the Aug. 2 interview, Banks said the number of overdoses is still relatively low compared to other areas, but the city isn’t immune to the crisis. He didn’t have the exact increase, but he said it has probably gone from single digits to low double digits.
Banks said there’s been an increase in bike thefts; dogs and tents on the beach are problematic; teens are being disruptive; and electric bikes are going way too fast.
People are being much more argumentative about tents, he said, adding that people put tents back up as soon as an enforcement officer walks away, which is something he hasn’t seen before. There is only one patrol person from Deauville Beach to Prospect Street, he said.
Recognizing the tone, Banks said Rehoboth Beach is still a great place to be.
“It could just be that maybe I’m a bit jaded,” he said during the meeting. “Visitors are here and they’re happy to be here.”