300 vacancies: Senate bill to address Virginia State Police pay and retention problems

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WFXR) — On Tuesday, Wayne Huggins, former Superintendent of the Virginia State Police and current Executive Director of the Virginia State Police Association, spoke with WFXR News’ Kathlynn Stone about the need for lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 1211, which is currently embedded into the Senate’s Budget Proposal.

According to Huggins, “It would create specifically what they call a Public Safety Trust Fund which would be a dedicated source of revenue for the Virginia State Police.”

That trust fund would receive revenue through a $4 a year increase on your vehicle registration and would generate approximately $29.4 million a year.

Sen. John Edwards introduced the measure this year and last year. Huggins says the efforts began when it was introduced by former Sen. Bill Carrico.

When Senate Bill 1211 made it to the House, it passed in the House Transportation Committee last week. It went from there to the House Appropriations Committee, which did not take the bill up before the deadline for revenue bills. That normally would kill the effort, but the Senate budget includes language to create the trust fund.

“When we started trying to get these problems addressed four years ago we had about 150 thereabout vacancies. This time last year we had 200 vacancies and when I testified before the Senate and the House last year I told them if they didn’t do something to address that they could expect to have 300 vacancies this year and that’s precisely where we are at.”

Huggins says 300 vacancies make up about 27-percent of VSP’s patrol force. In addition, 300 members of the force are eligible for retirement this year.  

He adds that the problem is actually worse than that.

“Over the last 10 months, we have graduated approximately 140 troopers out of our basic academy. If we had not graduated those 140, rather than having 300 vacancies, we would be sitting at almost 450 vacancies today.”

The problem is not new. According to Huggins, pay compression and retention problems date back to the late 1990s.

“They’ve only grown over the last 20 to 25 years and really it’s not an overstatement to say it’s at crisis level today.” 

Huggins says the problems are just confounded by the perfect storm that is vacancies; coronavirus-related issues; and the fact that over the past six to eight months, VSP was deployed to more than 155 special assignments. One of those assignments was the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6.

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