RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - After a year of social unrest aimed at excessive police force, police departments across the country have been reporting drops in numbers - officers either resigning or retiring, perhaps early.
Last year in Virginia, Governor Northam signed sweeping police reform legislation into law, giving localities the ability to create civilian law enforcement review boards, banning no-knock warrants, and prohibiting police from using certain military-style weapons, among a list of other measures.
There was also a proposed bill to end qualified immunity for officers in Virginia, which often protects police from civil lawsuits, alleging officer misconduct. That legislation ultimately died.
The NBC12 On Your Side Investigators looked into staffing levels across police departments in the greater Richmond area to see how many officers have left their positions after an unprecedented year with major societal upheaval, coupled with a global pandemic.
Richmond Police saw a 47 percent increase in the number of officers who left the department in 2020, compared to the year before. That includes resignations, retirements, terminations, and any other reason.
During the specific time frame from April of 2020 to April of 2021, during the height of much of the protests and pandemic fallout, 82 officers gave notice to Richmond Police, out of an authorized strength of 754.
Henrico County Police saw a 32 percent increase in the number of officers leaving in 2020, compared to 2019. Virginia State Police experienced an 11 percent hike in departures.
Chesterfield County Police showed a 23 percent decrease in the number of officers leaving, from 2019 to 2020.
“The Chesterfield County Police Department has cultivated an extraordinary organizational culture, which is augmented by a supportive county government and an incredible community. I think the numbers speak for themselves,” said Chesterfield County Police Chief Col. Jeffrey Katz.
- 2020: 71 (47.9% increase)
- 2019: 48
- Total number of officers authorized for department: 754
- 2020: 65 (32% increase)
- 2019: 49
- Total number of officers authorized for department: 662
- 2020: 32 (23% decrease)
- 2019: 42
- Total number of officers authorized for department: 547
Virginia State Police:
- 2020: 141 (11.9% increase)
- 2019: 126
- Total number of officers authorized for department: 2,161
Lt. Matthew Pecka, a spokesperson for Henrico County Police Department, points out that 25 of the officers who left HCPD in 2020 were recruits who were in the middle of training, and never actually sworn.
Lt. Pecka sent NBC12 the following statement:
“The Henrico County Police Division is committed to providing a workforce to deliver various services countywide.
The Henrico County Police Division currently is operating at near full complement and with 12 more sworn officers
than at this time a year ago. While the profession of law enforcement has faced many challenges nationwide, the
Henrico Police Division remains committed to the job and those in the community who call upon us in a time of
In 2020, 65 officers were separated from the division, 16 more than in 2019. 23 officers resigned, 16 officers retired,
and one officer passed away. In addition, 25 police recruits did not successfully complete the academy.
Henrico County received a recent achievement overall as one of the top places to work in 2021. If you or someone
you know is looking for a career, call us today at (877)-437-HIRE.”
Other factors to consider in why officers are leaving are wages and recruitment efforts, according to Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.
The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police recently sent out a survey to police departments statewide to get more data on officer departures. The association is awaiting results.
“We just sent a survey to all police chiefs… to get an idea of how many vacancies there are,” said Schrad. “But we are hearing a lot of stories about open positions that are almost impossible to fill.”
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