ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — With staffing shortages hitting departments nationwide, the Roanoke Police Department is also currently feeling the strain.

On Tuesday, Nov. 23, the department released the following statement after the Rescue Mission of Roanoke announced the route for the annual Drumstick DASH would be changed due to the lack of officers available to handle the downtown area:

“It is accurate that we could not meet the minimum number of required officers and supervisors needed to safely host an event this large in our City. In an effort to keep the Drumstick DASH on its traditional course, we reached out to neighboring jurisdictions to see if they could provide the necessary personnel. While we were able to get some additional staffing from those outside agencies, unfortunately it was still not enough personnel to safely host this event in our Downtown area. We are extremely glad that the Drumstick DASH was able to move to Rivers Edge Park and that runners will now get to experience the beautiful Greenways of Roanoke, while keeping the event as safe as possible for everyone involved.”

Spokesperson for the Roanoke Police Department

Criminologist and former Maryland police officer, Dr. Tod Burke, says there will be challenges with a shortened staff.

“When you have fewer officers, what you are asking the officer to do is do more with less, and that is problematic. You have to become creative with your ways of policing,” said Dr. Burke.

Dr. Burke adds that a lot of officers are leaving their jobs for other jobs — sometimes for other police jobs in other states with better pay.

Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea says that people are losing interest in becoming a police officer in the Star City.

“We have lost over 87 officers in a year,” said Lea. “People are resigning or retiring, or it is basically as I said many times…people are not interested in being police officers as they once were.”

However, Dr. Burke has hope. He says with the right amount of police reform, police departments nationwide will get higher recruitment, and retention numbers.

“You want to be able to hire officers but you want to be able to keep them. Sure we can talk about salary increases, but really salary becomes a short-term gain. You really want to make the job attractive for those entering the field,” explained Dr. Burke.

The Roanoke Police Department did say that with the Drumstick DASH being moved to the Roanoke Greenway, they are confident there will be enough officers to handle the change in location.

If you would like to volunteer for the Drumstick DASH, visit the Rescue Mission website to sign up.

If you would like to walk or run in the DASH, registration is still open for the in-person DASH on Thursday, Nov. 25, as well as the virtual DASH, which takes place through Tuesday, Nov. 30.

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