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Hampton Roads police departments work to address staffing shortages

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Posted at 1:53 PM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 17:35:03-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Law enforcement agencies across Hampton Roads are working to address staffing shortages.

The Portsmouth Police Department is out with a new PSA aimed at attracting officers to the force. On Friday, the city manager told News 3 there are more than 80 vacancies in the department.

"It's hampering us. We're having to make choices as to whether we deploy officers in neighborhoods to be visible to reduce crime versus whether we put them on traffic," City Manager Angel Jones said.

They're trying to address the shortage through bonuses and are thinking about creating a program where young people who have an interest in a career in law enforcement can be employed through other means until they're old enough to become police officers.

"We don't want to let those go that have already expressed an interest in becoming a police officer at a young age, so we're trying to develop that pipeline and keep them and grow our own police officers, if you will," said Jones.

It's a similar story in several other cities. During a Facebook question-and-answer session Tuesday, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said the department is short 45 police officers.

"People are retiring and not sticking around as long. Some people are saying, 'The job isn't for me.' Some officers don't feel appreciated, and their families are like, 'Why are we doing this?'" Drew said.

Just like in Portsmouth, they also have to decide how to deploy resources.

"We are about 45 officers short, and I'm not able to concentrate on traffic as much as I have before, and it's something I'm aware of," Drew said.

Newport News is not currently offering hiring bonuses. Still, Chief Drew is hoping to bring in 30 recruits during the upcoming police academy. Currently, there are about 15 recruits.

"I understand that it may not be for everyone, and I understand some individuals may want to do something else. I get it, but those that stay in this profession will tell you there is no greater reward," Drew said.

You can watch the entire discussion with Chief Drew in the Facebook player above.