PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — According to the National Police Foundation, 86% of police departments across the country have staffing shortages. It’s no different for the men and women in blue on Virginia’s highways.
“We have people leaving for retirement taking other jobs, maybe the private sector, and people are going back to school,” said Sam Boone, a master trooper and recruiter for Virginia State Police.
State police in July reported 334 vacancies — that’s fewer troopers to respond to minor fender benders to high-speed chases.
Two weeks ago, a man driving up to 120 mph crashed at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in a dangerous incident that involved several jurisdictions and two states.
Because of the shortage, troopers are bringing in local police and sheriff’s deputies for backup. State police say so far, the plan has worked.
“Our most critical need has been calls for service. It’s [delays] been minimal. We prioritize what we are going to be doing to make sure everybody’s needs are met in the community,” Boone said.
The department has intensified recruiting efforts by visiting the region’s historically Black colleges and universities and by meeting youngsters in the community.
“It’s a long process, but the earlier we catch them, in the long-term they can be great state troopers one day,” said Boone.
Since July, 11 law enforcement officers have been added to the rolls and 62 trainees are scheduled to graduate in January. Additionally, Virginia State Police has a shortage of 119 civilian employees.