FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – The General Assembly will weigh in on requests to divvy up more than $4 billion of COVID relief funds in Virginia.
One organization looking for a piece of that pie is Virginia State Police, which is requesting millions of dollars to help solve is staffing shortage issues.
In the past five years, state police have lost most than 400 staffers.
Virginia State Police Association Executive Director Wayne Huggins said the main reason is that they’re not getting paid enough.
“We’re just not competitive. Even after the raise we got in June, we are still not competitive. These troopers are like everyone else. They are looking to support their families,” explained Huggins.
To become competitive, the Virginia State Police Association wants $18.6 million to raise salaries from about $47,000 to about $51,000.
Additionally, a nearly $19 million request aims to purchase more officer body cameras.
State Police currently have 300 cameras in their network.
There’s also a desire to gain $20 million to replace two helicopters which would play a role in rural communities.
“We have to have dependable aircraft for that particular geography to be able to get to places in a hurry,” Huggins said. “It’s a function of saving lives.”
Those three requests add up to about $60 million, which represents 1.44% of the $4 billion in funds available.
Franklin County NAACP President Walter Lawrence Jr. said the amount of money in these requests is high and he would rather see that money go to localities or even to support schools in rural areas.
“The state police have a better budgeting process than local police departments,” he said. “So you don’t want to overfund them and you don’t want to underfund them.”
Currently, there are more than 300 trooper vacancies and applications are down by 40%.
Lawrence said competitive salaries are needed but choosing wisely is still important.
“You need the best and the brightest so you have to raise the standards,” he said. “Then that’s consummate with raising the pay rate. But you can’t just choose and pick any or everybody.”
The General Assembly will make a decision on the requests by Monday.