RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Following a summer of unrest and an increased focus on criminal justice reform from legislators and protestors, 8News sat down with Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith to discuss police force numbers.
Chief Smith says since May 2020, 37 officers total have left the Richmond Police Department. 27 have resigned and an additional 10 officers have retired.
“That is not an unusual number,” Smith told 8News, “Looking back, and I spoke to some other chiefs in the past, who said that they normally run vacancies somewhere around 25 to 30.”
The department said there are currently 712 sworn officers in the force, meaning about five percent of the department has left since May.
Although the chief said the number of vacancies is not unusual, he said this year has been.
“We have seen a pandemic, we have seen social unrest and there is just a general feeling of uncertainty of what is next and that makes this job even harder. And so some people, some officers have sought other opportunities,” Smith said.
One of those officers made a Facebook post earlier this week about their decision to quit, which quickly went viral. In that post, the officer said, in part, “Officers are tired of being targeted and silenced…”
“Those were his opinions, but it’s not the opinion of RPD,” Smith said about the post, “It’s not the opinion of Richmond. It’s not the entire opinion of Richmond, if you go out and talk to people. They’re not targeting RPD. There are some people that have a voice that can get loud sometimes, but when you talk to the majority of people that are here, that’s not the sentiment that I hear.”
Smith comended the officers who continue to work on the front lines.
“They get tired sometimes, just like anyone else, but they’re here and they’re taking a job that just not anyone can take one,” he said.
Chief Smith believes is time to focus on those who are coming in and staying with the police department.
He said there is no lack of interest in new recruits and he is hoping to explore the idea of offering bonuses to those new officers.
“Other departments in the area do that. I think it would be well deserved and that would be a huge incentive to bring people to Richmond,” Smith told 8News.
The chief also said he is interested in exploring the possibility of raises for all police officers and city employees.
“Hiring police officers is always very difficult because it’s a lot of scrutiny,” Smith said. “You’re looking for people who are really committed to the community and also meet a very high criteria of standards.”
If you are interested in working for the Richmond Police Department, call 804-646-6733, email RPDrecruit@richmondgov.com or click here.
Watch the full interview here
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