NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Recent Norfolk Police retirees are being asked to join the force again to help supplement the department’s short staffing.
Last Tuesday, Norfolk City Council approved Interim Police Chief Mike Goldsmith’s request to allow former officers to perform some desk work on a part-time basis. In-turn, Goldsmith said this would allow full-time officers to hit the streets.
It’s one of the many strategies Goldsmith said he is using, in order to try and serve the city’s public safety needs while down a quarter of his department.
Currently, the deficit is around 250 officers in the Mermaid City. That is more than any other local police department.
In early July, the department announced a restructuring that would be pushing many non-emergency calls to its Telephone Response Unit (TRU), the online Citizens Reporting System or the MyNorfolk App. The goal is to provide better in-person service for more urgent matters.
During a presentation to City Council last week, Goldsmith said bringing back former officers that still have their Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services certification up-to-date will help accomplish the same purpose.
“That will take a tremendous load off of us,” Goldsmith said. “It will allow us to put people in places that we need to do important intel work, crime analysis work and to help us in other areas of the department.”
For example, Goldsmith said the part-time sworn retirees would be able to monitor the red-light and coming speed cameras.
He also said the department will look to hire “civilian professionals” when they can as well, “in order to free up more uniforms to get on the street.”
He said he is adding administration officers to help cover shifts with higher call volumes. Specifically Thursday to Saturday, 7 p.m. – 3 a.m.
“This is not going to come without some pain,” Goldsmith warned.
He said some training initiatives will be put on hold. He also raised the red flag about crowd control.
“We are going to be severely reduced in our ability to support large events,” Goldsmith said. “We have some coming down the pike that we don’t know how we are going to cover yet.”
In May, Newport News Police provided upwards of 20 officers to help staff the city’s inaugural Patriotic Festival.
While the city has been working to increase police pay, ramp up recruitment and recently graduated 11 new officers from its academy, Councilman Tommy Smigiel suggested a policy change to keep more officers from leaving.
More than 1,000 vehicles were reported stolen in Norfolk in 2021. Smigiel said the departments restrictive policy on pursuits keeps officers from doing their job.
In 2020, following the nationwide protests calling for police reform following the murder of George Floyd, Norfolk City Council banned NPD from commencing a high-speed police chase unless they are pursuing someone accused of causing serious injury or death to another.
Last August, City Council voted to direct City Manager Chip Filer to propose a change to the policy to allow police to chase stolen vehicles. Former Police Chief Larry Boone said criminals are “playing grab-butt with our officers,” knowing they won’t be chased.
However Filer never brought the proposal back before City Council.
“I think there is a way to do it where we still are protecting lives. But also making sure the criminals know that we are serious,” Smigiel said.
Several council members say they would be willing to have a special session in order to further strengthen the policy.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article as well as the segment broadcast on WAVY-TV incorrectly stated that Norfolk City Council amended the police pursuit police in August 2021. This was incorrect and WAVY-TV regrets the errror.