Wait, What? Virginia Law Enforcement Employment Increased 13% in 2020?

Full-Time Law Enforcement Employees, Virginia, Oct. 31, 2020. Source: Crime in Virginia 2020

In conservative media, we often hear how law-enforcement morale plummeted last year in the face of withering criticism from politicians, media and even the public. We read of rising retirements and resignations and of shrinking recruitment, especially in big cities where anti-police rhetoric is strongest. So, what’s the story in Virginia?

If the data from the Crime in Virginia 2020 report is to be believed, local governments in the Old Dominion dramatically boosted the number of law enforcement personnel last year. Full-time law-enforcement employment as of Oct. 31 rose to more than 27,400 — up from 24,400 the previous year.

Employment by the Virginia State Police and college police forces was fairly stable, but the number of county law enforcement officers surged 24%, city officers by 26%, and “other agency” officers by 40%.

Employment bulked up among civilian employees and sworn officers in roughly equal proportions — 22% for officers and 24% for employees.

The ratio of full-time law enforcement officers per Virginia citizen increased from one in 440 in 2019 to one in 364 last year.

These numbers are so counter-intuitive that I have to wonder if the Virginia State Police, which publishes the report, altered its definitions or changed its methodology. On the other hand, the conservative meme of poor police morale and shrinking police forces simply does not apply to Virginia.