Choosing a career in law enforcement during a time of scrutiny, shortages

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Posted at 3:15 PM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 18:10:22-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Being a police officer is a difficult job that’s been put under the magnifying glass in recent years. While many agree that certain reform is needed, some believe the bad actions of a few are casting a negative light on entire agencies.

Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone told News 3 that the Norfolk Police Department had a shortage of 100 back in June 2020 due to low pay. Then, the death of George Floyd and subsequent nationwide scrutiny of law enforcement caused officers to leave or retire early, making it more difficult to recruit for the job.

Related: Violence in Norfolk highlights need for more officers

The News 3 I-Team has been investigating officer shortages in Hampton Roads.

Friday, 13 men and women went from being police recruits to being police officers with the Newport News Police Department.

“Not everyone wants to do this job, and not everybody can do this job,” said Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew.

38-year-old Laphea Morrison is one of the 13 graduates. He says he grew up in low-income housing in Hampton, first working at the shipyard before joining the Air Force.

“I did have a good childhood. We had rough days, of course, everybody does, and that inspired me to want to lead and do the right thing out here," Morrison said.

The entire law enforcement field has been under scrutiny for years, which has in part caused officer shortages in our region and across the country.

“Our instructors from day one told us we were coming in at a tough time, but they say sometimes when there’s a lot of change going on, it’s a good time to come in,” Morrison said.

“They have a heart for service. That’s what I’m looking for,” Drew said.

Drew said the NNPD can’t recruit like it did back in the 1980s. He said in his department, their focus is on community, with current officers using social media to tell their personal stories and share their daily interactions with the community in hopes of attracting others to join.

“We have to think outside of the box and be creative, and I think that’s what departments across the country are trying to do at the end of the day,” Drew said. “The best recruitment tool that we have is reputation."

Morrison said as a child there were police officers that he wanted to be like, and now he's living out his dream in hopes of helping the community, especially the youth.

“That’s my passion is helping the kids and letting them know that it’s okay to be whatever it is you want to be. It is okay to like the police and talk to them,” Morrison said.

News 3 reached out to several police departments about recruiting events and shortages. Here's what they said:

Current vacancies in Hampton Roads police departments:

  • Newport News - 57 vacancies
  • Norfolk - 219 vacancies
  • Portsmouth – 88 vacancies
  • Virginia Beach – 91 vacancies
  • Chesapeake – 38 vacancies
  • Suffolk - 35 vacancies
  • Hampton – 30 vacancies

Recruiting events:

  • Hampton Roads’ LGBTQ Career Expo (Old Dominion University) - 3/30
  • Hampton Roads Regional Job Fair (Hampton) -  4/7
  • JBLE-Langley Virtual Job Fair for Military Personnel (Virtual) - 4/12
  • City of Norfolk Job Fair (MacArthur Mall) - 4/23
  • Tidewater Job Fair (Chesapeake) -5/3. Includes advertising and radio ads.
  • Hire Vets Now Career Expo (Fort Eustis) - 5/26
  • Norfolk Tides Home Game Recruiting Table (Norfolk) - 6/18
  • PrideFest (Norfolk) - 6/25

Click here for more News 3 Investigations.