Virginia Beach Police Chief working to fill 80 open spots on the force

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Fewer officers on the streets of Virginia Beach has some people concerned.

News 3 sat down with the Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera to hear how he is taking action to fix this issue.

Cervera said the department had a lot of people retire and a high number of people that dropped out of the police academy.

The Virginia Beach Police Department has 816 sworn officer positions and right now there are 80 vacancies, according to Cervera.

The Virginia Beach Police Union President Brian Luciano said the current shortage is impacting both the safety of the community and the officers.

“When you don't have enough, officers are sacrificing something,” said Luciano.

“I think it's absolutely impacting safety because the fewer officers you have on the street the fewer can come to the aid of the citizen or the officer,” said Luciano.

Cervera said he has moved shift schedules for certain officers. He said, “Some officers will move moving out of sort of specialized assignments back into the field.”

He said there are 62 new recruits starting the police academy at the end of the month which is the second biggest class they’ve had.

Cervera said they’re prioritizing calls and taking more reports over the phone as opposed to sending on officer for something like a stolen bike.

Plus, they’ve increased their recruiting efforts.

“We did do some extra recruiting. We brought extra background investigators to get this process moving quicker.  We brought in extra polygraph examiners to get the process moving quicker.  We put a lot of pressure on the academy staff,” said Cervera.

“It's been an issue we've seen coming and to make it more of a concern the cities is growing. There are plans to expand the city and expand the services of the city but we need to grow along with the city,” said Luciano.

The lack of officers is a problem seen in cities across the country.

In Virginia Beach, a police officer starts at a minimum of around $44,000 a year.