Poor salaries and an unsustainable workload are prompting a surge of troopers to leave the Virginia State Police this year while applications continue to decrease, the agency’s commander wrote to employees.
The details in a Friday memo from Col. W. Steven Flaherty to his department come as the state is facing a $1.5 billion shortfall in its two-year budget and the governor is looking for cuts from executive branch agencies.
The memo first was reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. In it, Flaherty tries to address a morale problem in the department over the budget, a lack of raises and the withdrawal of pay raises that were contingent on a revenue forecast that didn’t happen.
He encouraged troopers and civilian personnel to contact their lawmakers to let them know their decisions affect not just the quality of life for employees and their families, but also police service.
”The entire Executive Staff wants to assure you that we are doing everything possible to convey our dire circumstances to Governor (Terry) McAuliffe, Secretary (Brian) Moran and every state legislator, who is willing to listen,” Flaherty wrote. “We are very aware of how difficult and challenging these setbacks are to you and your families.”
Troopers “have been asked to do more with less for too long,” he wrote.
As a result, 103 troopers and 76 civilian employees left the state police in the first nine months of the year, a majority to seek better-paying jobs in other police agencies. The departures escalated following Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s budget shortfall announcement in August.
Currently the State Police has 220 sworn vacancies in the field. Flaherty wrote the agency may be forced to delay a new recruit class scheduled to begin in March.
State Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson County, a former state trooper whose son is a trooper, said Virginia will need to raise trooper pay, like other states such as Texas have done, to attract quality people to the agency.
He has proposed raising the automobile registration fee annually by $1.25 for 10 years to pay for more troopers. The proposal has passed the state Senate but not the House of Delegates.
McAuliffe has blamed the estimated state budget shortfall on a lack of high-paying jobs. Revenue is growing but isn’t expected to grow at the rate planned onby lawmakers and the governor.
McAuliffe has taken any discussion of a tax increase off the table and is looking for cuts as he prepares to provide a budget report to lawmakers in December.
Lawmakers will address budget changes when they convene in January.
This story originally appeared on PilotOnline.com