Richmond aims to reroute $1.6 million to fill police officer shortage

Published: Nov. 23, 2016 at 6:49 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2016 at 7:23 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond's City Council is working toward quickly rerouting $1.6 million to immediately hire more police officers.

The Richmond Police Department is facing its most severe staffing shortage in five years. RPD has been asking for more money to hire officers and keep the ones already on staff from leaving to other jurisdictions for a better salary.

The late-year funding would add 20 more uniformed officers to the force. This measure comes as the city counts a spike in homicides and shootings this year.

"We haven't seen numbers like that since 2006," said Richmond Police Lt. Don Davenport.

Lt. Davenport says the reduction in staffing is undeniable in the major crimes unit, which handles violent cases.

"There's one stark contrast between 2006 and today. In 2006, the major crimes division had 62 investigators. Today we have 52."

Patrol officers say they're feeling the pinch, as well. Officers on the street say they're overloaded with call volumes and short on backup. Sometimes, officers say they're unable to make arrests because the necessary support just isn't there.

Response times are longer, and paychecks are generally stagnant. Richmond officers say they're paid significantly less than what they were promised when signing on.

Officer Gene Carter with Richmond's Mounted Unit says he works hours of overtime and still only manages to support his family paycheck-to-paycheck.

"I…work a tremendous amount of overtime just to make ends meet. I work paycheck-to-paycheck, and that's how I've lived for years. And I'm not alone," said Officer Carter.

The $1.6 million would add a new recruit class of 20 officers, while another 35 are currently going through the training program. However, police stress that hiring more officers is only half the problem.

"The hiring of new officers is but a Band-Aid. It's retaining the current personnel we have," added Lt. Davenport.

The money is being pulled from other agencies throughout the city. The City Council still has to give a final vote on the additional funding measure next month.

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