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KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — Staffing shortages are impacting many businesses across the east right now, and law enforcement agencies are no exception.

Kinston’s interim police chief Jenee Spencer said they’ve lost 16 officers in the past year and are now down 13 officers. She said a lot of them are leaving for more competitive salaries in other locations.

“We’re just looking to be in the ballpark of agencies like Ayden, Mount Olive, New Bern, little Washington and Pink Hill,” Spencer said.

This is why she made a proposal to the Kinston City Council Tuesday night to increase starting salaries from $32,869 to $37,799. This is in exchange for freezing six positions in the department.

“We understand the city of Kinston doesn’t want to do tax increases or touch our general fund so we made a proposal where we are willing to adjust our police department budget,” Spencer added.

She said officers are working overtime to fill the vacant positions to keep the community safe.

“We have a patrol division which are the typical officers you see responding to 911 calls and calls for service, and we’ve had to pull officers who are not only off work or should be on vacation,” said Spencer. “We’ve had officers willing to step up and work overtime and willing to move from one position to another to still provide the same police services to our community.”

Tonight’s presentation by Spencer was only a proposal for the council to now consider. Kinston City Council will have to place it on the agenda and take a vote on the matter.

This post first appeared first on WNCT 9 News.