March 27, 2006
A recent study of over 17,000 police agencies nationwide shows that 80 percent have vacancies they can not fill. Locally, several departments are in the same predicament.
"The level of interest and the desire to be a part of a law enforcement program isn't as great as it was," said Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo.
Charlottesville City and Albemarle County are just two of the agencies nationwide that are struggling to fill police vacancies. At this time, the County has six openings while the City has three.
"It's a very competitive market with looking for people with clean backgrounds, good credit, [and a] good driving record," said Lt. John Teixeira of the Albemarle County Police Department.
Officials point to the War in Iraq, more federal policing opportunities, and a pay scale that does not keep up with the private sector as reasons for the decline. Both agencies are stepping up efforts to recruit more officers.
"Last year, we tested five times which is once every 2 and a half months. Versus in the past, we would test once or twice a year," said Teixeira.
Right now, existing officers work more overtime and get less days off to fill the holes.
"The job still has to get done. The community still has to be policed and these officers still need to be protected," Longo said.
Despite the alternatives, both the City and the County say they refuse to fill the positions with unqualified people.
"At no point during the course of that process do we compromise standards simply to fill positions," Longo said.
"We will not drop our standards to fill positions. We would rather those positions go unfilled then drop our standards," said Teixeira.
Albemarle County said they are running background checks on 8 potential officers, and hope that will lead to about 3-4 hirings. However, both departments say applications are always welcome.