HOPEWELL, Va. (WRIC) — Residents in Hopewell and the police chief are concerned because of a shortage of police officers in the city.
At full staff, the force has around 64 members, but the department currently has about seven vacant positions, a significant impact because the department is so small. Chief John Keohane says the department is working to ensure the community is safe.
Chief Keohane says his most recent applicant pool was lower than past years, and he believes the department’s starting salary is part of the issue.
New officers in Hopewell start at $38,600, one of the lowest salaries for police officers in the region. The department currently has three new officers training in the academy.
“I won’t see my three new people in the academy until the end of April, and they’ve been in since September,” says Chief Keohane. “The issue is, they’ve all left probably within a nine month period, and with so many elite people leaving within a nine month period, it takes so much time to train the new officers and then the big question is how am I going to retain those officers after I train them.”
Later this month, the chief says he will go in front of city council to ask for additional funding. City leaders agree that in order to stay competitive and to retain officers, the starting salary has to increase, but there may also be another hurdle to overcome.
“It’s really hard to give an incoming officer a certain amount of dollars that may be higher than somebody who has been here five years. So we have to make an adjustment across the board,” says Wayne Walton, a city council member.
Members of the community are also concerned about the vacancies on the force, but they are also very concerned about how little the officers get paid.
“When you have a family trying to live on less than $40,000 a year, you’re putting them on welfare and making them wards of the state and that’s just not right,” says Keith Hall, a local business owner.
The chief will make his request for more funding on November 24th at city council.