The men and women who protect the streets of Richmond have gone years without a raise, but officers want to know if that will change under a new police chief.
The short answer is it's too soon to tell. Chief Ray Tarasovic has only been on the job for five days, but some officers say after years of tension between Mayor Dwight Jones and former Chief Bryan Norwood, now there's reason to be optimistic.
What Chief Tarasovic said Tuesday evening are words you probably never would have heard out of former Chief Norwood's mouth.
"I'm going to be the mayor's chief of police for sure," Tarasovic explained.
Richmond Police officers are hoping the sentiment from new Chief Tarasovic means he has the mayor's ear and can be their advocate.
"The budget stuff will work itself out," he said. "Do I believe our officers are noteworthy and deserve whatever we can give them? Of course. Obviously, you try to do the best you can financially for your folks and we will do that."
The new top cop says he hasn't had budget conversations with the mayor just yet, but also hasn't been told he needs to fire people or make other cuts. On the other hand, he maintains he is prepared to do the job with whatever money the city can afford.
However, there are some other ways of boosting the low department morale.
"We have an officer take home vehicle program, it could be expanded," Tarasovic suggested. "We can look at providing residences for the officers in the city. There are multiple things that can be done."
But local officer union president Stacy Rogers explains after five years without raises and four without career development funds, at this point, that might not be enough to keep officers from leaving RPD for other opportunities.
"I think that short of there being some sort of monetary benefit to the men and women of the department right now, it's going to be difficult," he added. "I really think it's to the point that it's breaking points."
To put it in perspective, officers who were hired in July of 2008 at $38,000 are still making that salary today, almost five years later.
We'll soon know if that trend will continue. Tarasovic hopes to have budget conversations later this week.
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