ROANOKE (WSLS 10) – There is growing frustration among state troopers regarding a shortage in manpower, budget cuts and cancelled pay-raises.
The number of open positions is double what it was this time last year.
In fact, there are more than 200 vacancies across Virginia.
Overworked and underpaid are the frustrations Executive Director of the Virginia State Police Association Wayne Huggins, who is a former colonel with state police, said are growing in Virginia State Police.
“There are people, who are just beyond frustrated, they are angry. They just feel like they have been neglected year after year after year,” Huggins said.
So angry in fact, Huggins says the department is down by about 10 percent of its man power
In an all-staff memo, Col. W. Steven Flaherty said since February 2016, 103 sworn-in employees and 76 civilian employees have resigned. He said many are leaving to take better paying jobs.
“They see local counterparts, making significantly more than they are and this leads to frustrations and a feeling of ‘this is the way it’s going to be, I’ve got to take care of myself and my family. I’m going to go to greener pastures,’” said Huggins.
According to the latest trooper allocation distribution model, departments in our area are already short-staffed.
The model highlights how many troopers should be in each area, how many there are, and the difference. That difference locally is 81 troopers.
There is a shortfall in every area of Salem’s 6th District, especially in Roanoke and Montgomery County.
That means more overworked troopers covering for other short-staffed areas. Huggins says that can lead to areas going uncovered because staffing is so tight. He also says troopers receive a growing number of compensation hours that they are unable to receive because there isn’t the staffing available to take that time earned.
All comp-time must be used in the year it’s earned. When staffing is low, that can be near impossible for superintendents to award.
“They are working exorbitant numbers of hours of overtime. Many times they don’t get paid for those hours,” Huggins said.
“There are currently 116 sworn vacancies in the field. Due to looming budget cuts, being asked of all executive branch agencies, we may be required to delay the 126th Basic Session, which is scheduled to begin in March 2017.
Since February 2016, the Department has experienced a 48.5% decrease in trooper applications. Although, this decrease in applications is a nationwide trend, the Department’s ability to recruit is further exasperated by our poor salaries and our inability to compete with starting law enforcement salaries across the Commonwealth,” the memo stated.
The next recruiting class graduates on November, 4. The next won’t graduate until the spring. The recruiting class beginning after that may be delayed due to further looming budget cuts, which would only worsen the problem.
Huggins says both classes’ equal about 100 new troopers, but based on the acceleration of current vacancies, it won’t be enough to fill all positions.
Starting salary for State Troopers is $36,207. Huggins says many are pushing for the General Assembly to create dedicated funding to finance the Virginia State Police Department.
As of now, that department competes with other state agencies for money, meaning historically pay raises have been sporadic and inconsistent. He says the problem won’t be fixed until proper funding is dedicated to the department.