Loosening nepotism policy could help spur fire, police recruitment in Danville

City Council members discussing the idea

By Colter Anstaett - Southside Bureau Reporter

DANVILLE, Va. - "It makes me proud that he wants to continue on with a service to others," said Danville Police Department Capt. Dennis Haley about the prospect of his son working at the police department.

Haley said his son has his sights set on becoming a Danville police officer just like him.

"It's continuing a cultural tradition. When you grow up in a police family, that's what you know, that's what you hear," Haley said.

The city currently has a policy that prevents family members from working in the same department.

Haley said that policy has just started to be relaxed a little bit and is helping the police department with recruitment.

Danville Fire Chief David Eagle said the fire department currently has five vacancies.

He believes they could quickly be filled by family members of current firefighters who want to work for the department but can't because of the nepotism policy.

"We have several people in our department whose sons, who live here in Danville, had to go out of town," Eagle said. "We have brothers who live in Danville but work out of town."

He said recruiting is getting harder as the industry gets more competitive.

"I think that we have good checks and balances in place to prohibit favoritism. We have good accountability in place," Eagle said. "I think that relaxing the nepotism policy somewhat would help in our recruiting."

Danville Police Department Lt. Mike Wallace said a bigger challenge for the police department in recruiting is finding people who can pass the department's written test.

Over 120 people tested over the past month, but only 27 passed, primarily because of the reading comprehension section.

"It's unfortunate. The reading level is at a 10th-grade level," Wallace said.

He pointed out that often children of officers are great candidates but may not be able to be hired because of the city's nepotism policy.

"They're raised in the police culture and that kind of thing. That doesn't mean automatically they will be, but a lot of times we find that that is the case. So, I think it would probably help," Wallace said.

On Monday, 10 News reached out to City Councilmen Lee Vogler, Alonzo Jones and James Buckner.

All three said they're generally in favor of loosening the city's nepotism policy.

Jones, though, added that he wanted to know what the city's HR department thought about the change and as of Monday he had not heard back.

Considering a change to the nepotism policy is expected to be discussed at the city council work session on Dec. 4.

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