RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Police officers are calling it quits locally and across the state.
8News uncovers officers are resigning in record numbers and it could be putting your safety at risk. Overworked and underpaid is why one 15-year Richmond Police veteran, who wishes to remain anonymous, told 8News months ago that she walked away.
“There’s no one there to cover, you got three or four officers for the entire precinct,” said the former Richmond Police officer.
Now, 8News has uncovered she’s not the only one. Departments across the state are seeing officers depart in droves.
Overworked and underpaid is why one 15-year Richmond Police veteran, who wishes to remain anonymous, told 8News months ago that she walked away.
In the first nine months of this year, 103 Virginia State Troopers left the force. Over the past four years, the Richmond Police Department has lost nearly 100 officers. Last year alone, 30 resigned.
“These are detectives, they’re officers that have been with the department anywhere from five to 10 years,” explained Detective Brad Nixon, who is Vice President of the Richmond Coalition of Police.
Even more concerning, Nixon reveals to 8News that the cops who are calling it quits are veterans in the prime of their career.
“They have the college degree, they have the experience,” says Nixon.
Tired RPD cops and State Troopers have plenty of other options these days. Almost every department in the region is hiring and paying more.
The average starting salary for a Trooper is just over $36,207. In Richmond, even after a recent pay hike, the starting salary is $41,000. Yet, in neighboring Chesterfield County, the starting salary is up to $42,800. In Henrico County, the starting salary is $43,892.65.
“We are seeing it across the country,” says Dana Schrad at the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. She added that many of these officers resigning are leaving policing period.
“The law enforcement profession may not be respected by the general public they way it used to be,” says Schrad. “When you lose that, it is very hard to remain motivated.”
Schrad tells 8News that officers can be very attractive employees to the private sector.
“First of all they have been fully vetted, really good team players and have understanding a hierarchy,” she explained.
As departments are decreasing, crime is increasing.
In Richmond, homicides are on the rise with 43 so far this year and neighborhoods are seeing a spike in property damage. Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham has gone before City Council asking for help.
“I hear it all the time from my command staff, Chief we are overworked and we are not paid enough,” said Durham at a meeting several months ago.
Schrad says increasing salaries, while that might be tough for communities, in the beginning, could pay off for the taxpayer in the end.
Both Schrad and Nixon say it is a big investment to hire new officers. Training, equipment, cars, it adds up, about $100,000 per officer.
So Schrad and Nixon both agree that if you can retain those you have trained, there can be a savings down the road.
Meanwhile local departments like Henrico and Chesterfield County are turning to technology in addition to job fairs to help recruit officers.
“We’re utilizing social media to try to get a larger audience, post our efforts on there including videos for recruitment as well as recently documenting the efforts of our recruiting team as they travel out of state to recruit,” said Lieutenant Chris Garrett.
A recruiting team that is now in New York trying to attract people to work in the commonwealth. Garrett says the weather and cost of living may be factors in getting people to work in Henrico.
“It is a good department to work for, I’ve been here 27 years,” said Garrett.
Garrett says they’re also looking to diversify by reaching out to women. The department is holding a “Women in law enforcement” orientation next month where interested candidates can interact with women within the department.
Chesterfield has created a recruitment twitter account, visited colleges, high schools and military bases, and began advertising using billboards this month.
This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.