ROANOKE, VA — The Roanoke City Police Department is struggling to keep enough officers on the streets.
The department currently has more than a dozen openings, but Chief Tim Jones is worried that number will go up unless the city can give the department more money. He said right now, they’re having trouble recruiting and even keeping officers in the Star City.
“I’ve lost four to other law enforcement organizations in just the last three weeks. That is what I’m fearful will continue if we can’t move the needle forward,” Jones said.
Currently, the starting salary for a Roanoke city police officer is $37,738.10. For Virginia State Police, it’s $43,000. Jones said it would take six years for one of his new cadets to reach that. That’s why he’s asking the city for money to bump the starting salary to $40,000.
“Their average starting salary in a warehouse environment is $40,000. And it just kind of defies logic that a warehouse personnel’s responsibility is probably not that of what our society expects a police officer to be able to do on any given day,” Jones said.
Academy director Lt. Bill Breedlove said the pay issue makes it difficult to attract recruits.
“If you’re a qualified individual, why pick us when you can go somewhere else and make more money doing the same thing?” Breedlove said
They’ve stepped up recruiting efforts, but he said it’s still a hard sell.
“We’re trying to stay as competitive as we can and we try to offer–try to explain to them things that we have that those other departments might not have,” Breedlove said
Despite the city already cutting his budget by $119,000, Jones remains optimistic they’ll find a way to keep the streets staffed and safe.
“Nobody wants to hear the words raise taxes. Unfortunately, sometimes, we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to sustain all these resources and amenities that make Roanoke a really great place to live and to work and to raise a family,” Jones said.