ROANOKE, Va. – Police departments nationwide are struggling with staffing and now Roanoke’s top cop says they’re losing officers at an alarming rate.
Officers told 10 News it seems like a switch flipped in the last year.
“You’re being asked to do more with less,” Roanoke Police Association President Joel Patrick said.
Staffing is not a new problem, but it is growing.
“It’s no secret that we have more than a few vacancies here at the police department,” Roanoke Police Chief Sam Roman said.
Officially, the department has 34 openings. However, there are 27 officers who can’t be deployed in the field right now because they’re either in the academy, training or on some sort of leave.
“How do you deliver a service when perhaps you don’t have all of the pieces in place that would facilitate the delivery thereof?” Roman said.
Roman is grappling with that now, especially as Roanoke battles increasing crime. Gun violence incidents in 2020 were up 60% from 2019.
“We want to serve and make sure that our community is safe but at some point, when you, if you do not have the numbers, what will end up happening is you will then have to start changing the way that your police department is operating,” Patrick said.
Patrick said it’s a problem in recruitment and retention: fewer people signing up, more people signing off.
A number of factors driving this are out of their control like the current climate surrounding law enforcement nationwide and the challenging lifestyle that comes with the job. But the pay is something that can be modified to make Roanoke more competitive with other departments. 10 News is told city leaders are working on that now.
“If this pay increase does occur, that there are people that are saying ‘I will stay here if we get that,’” Patrick said. “Hopefully, we can avoid getting to the point where you have to start making drastic changes.”
Other departments are struggling with these issues too.
Here’s a breakdown of police departments in our area that are experiencing staffing issues:
- Lynchburg Police Department is fully staffed at 176 officers, but only has 135 available to be deployed right now.
- Danville Police Department is fully staffed at 131 officers, but only has 104 available to be deployed right now.
- Martinsville Police Department is fully staffed at 45 officers and has 40 available to be deployed right now.
- Blacksburg Police Department is fully staffed at 66 officers and has 65 available to be deployed right now.