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10 new officers not nearly enough to meet Lynchburg Police Department's needs

The police chief says officers are leaving Lynchburg at an alarming rate.

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Officers are leaving Lynchburg way too fast--that's according to the city's police chief.

Friday afternoon, the department swore in 10 new officers, and while it's a step in the right direction, the department still has a lot of room to grow.

The life of a police officer is not easy...officers thrown into dangerous situations at a moment's notice. And according to Chief Raul Diaz, that is one of the main reason officers are leaving the department at an alarming rate.

"Law enforcement has had a pretty tough three years with all the shooting deaths of officers; the onslaught against officers. It's been tough, not just for us but across the nation," said Diaz. 

The department can have 174 officers. In the past two years, Diaz says the department has lost nearly 30 percent of the force. But numbers are no match for the chief, just this week he approached the City Council with a plan to retain officers, and the council approved.

"We have such a problem with turnover that maybe the best return on investment for that money would be within the agency to try and stop the bleeding," said Diaz. 

The plan will adjust an officer's salary based on how many years that officer has served. That will affect sergeant and lieutenant salaries as well. The money for that adjustment will come from inside the department--leftover funds from yearly budgets.

"We looked internally to see if we could find money within our own budget and just reallocate that money and that's what we came up with," said Diaz. 

The chief says keeping officers is about more than just numbers and a paycheck. It's a way to bridge the gap between the community and the public.

"We're putting officers in very stressful, high-risk situations and we're asking them to make snap decisions for the good of the officer and the good of the community, so we need to have the most experienced people doing that as possible," said Diaz. 

Diaz says the department is looking at other long-term goals, like giving officers their own patrol vehicles and helping with student loans.