$5,000 retention bonus approved for Chesapeake law enforcement; public safety compensation study underway

Virginia

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Chesapeake is boosting efforts to retain trained law enforcement officers in the city.

Chesapeake City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to give officers and sheriff’s deputies certified to perform law enforcement duties a $5,000 retention bonus. It’s part of an effort to compete with a recently-approved sign-on bonus for officers hired by Virginia Beach.

City officials have said many police departments are offering incentives for new officers in an attempt to fix staffing issues. The City of Norfolk also approved a raise for police officers this fiscal year, boosting its starting pay to $50,800 per year.

There isn’t an exact date for when the checks will hit Chesapeake officers’ bank accounts, but City Manager Christopher Price said Tuesday night the process to distribute the money would begin immediately. The bonuses will be paid in two parts, according to agenda documents: half as soon as possible, and half in one of the final pay periods of the fiscal year which ends June 30.

To fund the bonuses, which are part of a retention initiative program being developed by city administrators, the city appropriated $2.7 million from the general fund to the fiscal year 2022 operating budget.

Several people spoke in support of the resolution ahead of its approval by City Council, including at least one member of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 9, the police union in Chesapeake.

Beyond the public speakers, however, was the strong attendance by the city’s public safety employees. Dozens of first responders sat and stood at the back of council chambers Tuesday night in a show of solidarity.

One speaker urged the city to give the bonus all at once, instead of in two installments months apart.

The resolution also allows the city manager to put “claw back” criteria into place that allow the city to recoup the bonus money if an officer separates from duty with the city.

Separately, the resolution also mentioned additional bonus money for sheriff’s offices that could come from the state level. The resolution said city staff said was monitoring the state’s efforts in the General Assembly to give bonuses to sheriff’s departments — that funding was approved Monday.

Lawmakers came to an agreement on $3,000 hazard pay bonuses for state-funded sheriff’s department employees, corrections officers and regional jail staff.

While the retention bonuses are a short-term measure, the city is also now working on the long-term.

The city is working on a “classification and compensation study” to evaluate the stepped pay scale for public safety employees. Price recently asked those conducting the study to push the public safety employee component ahead so the recommendations are given sooner.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Price said he hopes to have recommendations from the study in September, with a target for approval of any changes in October, or November at the latest.

As far as funding any changes in public safety employee compensation, Price said the current budget has “a few million dollars” to help. However, more “budget work” will need to be done.

City Council has a budget retreat scheduled for September, where city administrators will bring any “big budget” item needs — such as public safety pay — to the table. Price said administrators will bring strategies to City Council at that time on how to pay for the changes recommended by the study.

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