Local growth outpaces police staffing

Local growth outpaces police staffing

There are many signs in Charlottesville and Albemarle County that reflect the strain growth is increasingly placing on the area, from the inadequacy of sewer infrastructure to a limited police force that is challenged to keep up with the demands an influx of people brings. The city is currently authorized for 117 sworn police officers, while the county clocks in at 119. Both agencies are currently four officers short, but officials indicate that those numbers will still be inadequate to meet the needs of the community.

Albemarle County police Lieutenant John Teixeira says the county force is understaffed by 25-30 police officers.

“We’re probably 25 to 30 officers under staff,” says Lieutenant John Teixeira of the Albemarle Police Department. “We have a county that’s three quarters the size of Rhode Island, 744 square miles. We have a population that’s almost 100,000, half the size of Richmond and we only have one sixth the size of the Richmond P.D.”

“Staffing is one of our biggest challenges and has been for some time,” says city Police Chief Timothy Longo. He puts some of the blame on a staffing formula that is population based. “I think you have to look at not only your population but any other prevailing challenges and issues you have in the community,” he says, offering the University as one example. “Students not only contribute to your population base but your victim base as well.”

Both agencies agree that America’s War on Terror has had quite an effect on the eligible pool of potential police candidates. “Not only has the quantity lessened but we’re having a difficult time attracting the quality that we used to in the past,” Teixeira says. “After 9/11, a lot of the candidates that might have come to local law enforcement have been going federal or going into the military.”

When the efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan eventually cease, Longo is hopeful that the soldiers will integrate into the local police force. “When their service time is up they will likely come and be looking for other types of service-oriented jobs and I’m hoping that will have a positive impact on our applicant pool,” Longo says.

Of course, that will only be part of the solution, and in the meantime the area police force will be strapped for manpower. “Unfortunately, it’s an inevitable outcome of rapid growth,” Teixeira says. “We’re playing catch-up and we’re going to be playing catch-up for quite some time.”

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