state_policeby James A. Bacon

The Virginia State Police face a severe manpower shortage: Veteran police are resigning faster than recruits can be trained. In the first nine months of this year, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 103 sworn employees and 76 civilian employees have left the department. Meanwhile, applications to join the state police have fallen 49% since February.

Excluding police in training, the department is 220 troopers short. In the Richmond area, state police have lost 11 troopers from the 40-trooper allotment for Area 8. Staffing frequently dips below the “safe and acceptable minimum” of 18 troopers needed for each 24-hour period, according to a memo written by Col. W. Steven Flaherty, state police superintendent.

Applications for law enforcement are trending downward nationally, said Flaherty, but the problem is accentuated in Virginia by noncompetitive starting salaries.

“Our troopers are taking up collections for other troopers who cannot afford to buy their own lunch,” one commander wrote to another state police official in an email. “They are risking their lives every day and cannot afford to eat. What does that say?”

Since 2006, reports the T-D, the state police have experienced a $94.2 million reduction in General Fund budget resources. Additional cuts under consideration would hack out another $13.1 million.

Bacon’s bottom line: While reading this article this morning, a story appeared on the television news about an inexplicable and horrifying police shooting of an unarmed black man in Oklahoma who appeared not to be threatening or resisting in any way. Now, I can sympathize with how difficult it is to be a police officer never knowing if the subject of a stop will resist violently. Nationally, the number of police shootings is up markedly this year. But the juxtaposition of the two stories tells me that we need more than ever to hire the highest-caliber police officers who can exercise good judgment and maintain their cool in tense, ambiguous situations. And we don’t accomplish that aim by neglecting pay raises and slashing departmental budgets year after year.

Budget makers face hard choices in allocating scarce resources. I do not envy their job. But law enforcement is a core function of government. If the state police budget is to be cut, then the department’s mission must be redefined to align it with the resources available. Stressing troopers by stretching the force too thin cannot possibly end well.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


7 responses to “Don’t Short-Change Our Troopers”

  1. I wrote about this two years ago after I saw a presentation in the Militia, Police & Public Safety Committee.

    Troopers have been talking to be about attrition in the courthouse for years. The old retirement plan is why most are hanging on.

    With the new 401(k)-style retirement plan, you’re only going to see more attrition.

    1. You were ahead of the curve on that one. Is it possible to raise pay for state troopers without raising pay for other state employees, perhaps on the grounds that public safety is a critical function of state government? Not to say that other state employees don’t deserve a raise, but the state obviously is not in a position to raise salaries for everyone.

      1. Yes, but it’s also important to note that State Troopers aren’t paid the same statewide. They get locality adjustments based on the Barracks they serve. Northern Virginia Troopers aren’t even close compared to what officers are paid in Arlington or Alexandria. We could also adjust the locality pay in addition to or in lieu of the baseline pay.

        I had two DWI’s with a Trooper here up here who did his three years and took a job with CIA doubling his salary.

        We’re basically training them, giving them all of these skills, and then they take them elsewhere. Before the pension changes, the pension gave them an incentive to stick around when raises get deferred. Now that their pension are portable, there’s a lot more incentive to take their skills elsewhere – the free market at work.

        It also doesn’t help prosecutions when officers are constantly leaving the force.

  2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    This new reality is simply astounding. With all the Waste going on in Government (for example the the State’s 25 Million WASTED on the bogus Rotunda “restoration), and the Commonwealth of Virginia cannot afford to pay its state troopers a decent wage. This is gross government dysfunction, bordering on criminal.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      The real story here is the great contrast between government’s gross over-payment for some types of work and for ever expanding categories of no work at all, while that same government grossly underpays those who perform its most critical job, the work of protecting its citizens.

      This is yet another sure sign of a dysfunctional and a failing society, the kind of society that inevitably ends up being led by people with the qualities and character of people like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    I actually have a question – and a potential solution.

    My question has to do with what State Troopers in Va do other than sit in the interstate medians waiting to nail scofflaws going 81+ mph and are those other things they do more important than the interstate speed enforcement?

    We have the technology right now to have cameras automatically read the license plates of those scofflaws on the interstates.

    And I’d put them all over the place and save the State Troopers for duty that only human troopers can do – not machines.

    Put cameras on every overpass and every mile or so on the medians… and let the good times roll…. for speeding tickets.

    Then when autonomous cars start coming on line – I’d have the State Police buy a fleet of them to do no nothing else other than patrol the interstates with 24/7 video to just nail the dooda out of the aggressive-driving scofflaws that are now overrunning the interstates.

  4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    When I think of Virginia State Troopers I think of:

    1/ Men and women who most often are first on scenes of pain and chaos, giving someone’s daughter, son, husband, wife, grandmother or father laying out on the pavement a far better chance to survive and live another day than otherwise possible.

    2/ Men and women who most always are the only people who get drunk drivers off the highways before they kill or maim someone’s daughter, son, husband, wife, grandmother or father, or get home to reek harm on their families.

    3/ Men and women who most often are first to confront and take down drug runners passing through Virginia, getting them and their poison off the highways before they reach their destination to poison and ruin someone’s daughter, son, husband, wife, grandmother or father, and whole families even.

    4. Men and women who most surely will be one of our first lines of defense when the next minor or major disaster hits. Like when lines of cars and trucks collapse into one another, piling up in carnage. Or the electric grid goes out, leaving swathes of people in cold bitter darkness for the thugs to exploit and rampage across unless they encounter the Virginia State Troopers and his ilk, standing in their way, taking those thugs down before they take down someone’s daughter, son, husband, wife, grandmother, father, or whose communities, whether nursing homes, main streets, or subdivisions, left ruined by the side of Cormac Mccarthy’s ‘Road’.

    I have never failed to be impressed by the Virginia State Police. And early on I had memorable several “run ins” with the Virginia State Police, at all hours of the day and night. I remember each one vividly, how each trooper impressed me in a far more than most all politicians I’ve encountered and who mistreat them now.

Leave a Reply