Va. chief plans to battle officer shortage


The Virginian-Pilot

NORFOLK, Va. — The police department has a persistent shortage of officers, and restructuring pay grades to enable officers to attain higher salaries more quickly could help, Chief Bruce P. Marquis said Tuesday.

With an authorized complement of 768 officers, the department has 69 vacancies, more than double the vacancies in any other local city, according to a report Marquis presented to the City Council.

Last year, the report said, 50 officers left. Three were fired, 14 retired, and 33 resigned, including six who faced firing. Fifteen headed to other law enforcement agencies, including in Virginia Beach .

"We're treading water, and we can't make up the ground. ... We have to try to retain them," Marquis said.

Most of the vacancies were at the police officer level, though the department was short 12 sergeants. Marquis said 49 percent of officers who were not supervisors or managers had one to seven years of experience.

"We're a very young department," he said.

Retention plans are under review. In an interview later, Marquis said that he has not yet presented a retention strategy to City Manager Regina V.K. Williams.

Marquis also provided crime statistics for 2007. Overall, according to the figures, crime fell 2 percent in Norfolk. The numbers showed, however, that violent crime rose 3 percent, while homicides, counted at 50, spiked from 27 the prior year. Property crimes were reported as down slightly.

Copyright 2008 The Virginian-Pilot
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