RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Richmond police chief Alfred Durham says his understaffed department is losing an average of three officers per month. Citing that alarming rate of attrition, he is asking for enough money to hire 35 new officers.
Nearly two dozen officers have left the department in the first half of 2016 alone.
8News heard from an officer who spent nearly 15 years with Richmond Police. In early 2015, she said pay compression and minimum staffing led her to look for work elsewhere.
The former officer, who asked to remain anonymous, said she still talks to her former colleagues at RPD.
“They’re tired,” she told 8News Reporter Matthew McClellan. “They have to stay later. Someone who gets off at 8am, they have to stay until 12. Their days off are just no longer there because they’ve got to come in and they’ve got to work.”
She said minimum staffing was pulling her away from her family and making her already dangerous job even harder.
“There’s no one there to cover, you’ve got three or four officers for the entire precinct,” the woman told 8News.
That’s why she decided to quit last year. During the last three years, 142 officers have left the department for various reasons, many of them with five to ten years of service.
“We have folks that are vested that are departing the city, and that’s unusual,” Chief Alfred Durham told the city’s public safety standing committee on Tuesday.
8News talked to another former officer who also quit in 2015 after 7 years with the department. He left for a federal-level law enforcement job with better pay and scheduling.
“They have to stay later. Someone who gets off at 8am, they have to stay until 12. Their days off are just no longer there because they’ve got to come in and they’ve got to work.” — Former RPD officer
The department is authorized to have up to 750 sworn officers. With only 678 available for duty, members are being thinly spread across the district.
“It’s horrid. If you’ve got one officer driving the transportation wagon, they’re going back and forth,” one of the former officers said. “Whoever’s arresting someone- that person is going to lockup. You may go from having four officers there to two. Then, you’re pulling officers from other precincts.”
Chief Alfred Durham cited salary as the reason most officers are voluntarily leaving.
“That’s what I’m hearing, is the pay compression issue,” he told the Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.
City council has given the department funding for a second year of the Step program, decompressing salaries in an attempt to keep members on staff.
As of July 1, the starting salary for a RPD officer is $41,000 thousand dollars- less than Hanover, Chesterfield and Henrico counties.