VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – A video released earlier this month by the Virginia Beach Police Benevolent Association (VBPBA) depicts not only a war on cops in the streets, but a war inside their own departments.
“They feel that they are not being compensated properly,” said VBPBA President Brian Luciano, who specifically chose to highlight two words in the video: understaffed and underappreciated.
Luciano says officers are suffering from low morale, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
“Other major issues are manpower, the lack of retention, the constant need for recruiting, and disparity among the ranks,” Luciano told News 3’s Merris Badcock, rattling off a number of concerns during an on-camera interview.
News 3 obtained a recent Virginia Beach Satisfaction Survey through a Freedom of Information Act request. While the comments include those of all Virginia Beach City staffers, it is easy to see comments written directly about the police department.
For example, there is this comment: “A systemic double standard seems to exist within the police department.” And this one: “Unhappy with City Manager’s treatment of police!” Or this one: “City leadership is kidding themselves if they think that diversity and open thinking are encouraged in the police department.”
Luciano says none of those comments surprised him. “Those are all things that I’ve had officers in the department tell me directly.”
(Scroll down to see the video created by the Virginia Beach Police Benevolent Association.)
Inspired by the seemingly unsatisfied city employees highlighted on the satisfaction survey, News 3 asked Luciano for the numbers.
According to Luciano, the department loses about 80 officers a year to things like retirement or better compensation from other departments. Additionally, Luciano says the department graduates only 50 new recruits from the academy, each year on average. If you do the math, that means Luciano estimates the department has a net loss of 30 officers each year.
In Virginia Beach, Luciano says there are about 1.8 officers for every 1,000 citizens. However, according to 2015 data from the FBI, in the South Atlantic region, there are 2.8 officers for every 1,000 citizens.
“It is basically one more officer per 1,000 than we have,” said Luciano. “It would like doubling the size.”
Luciano is happy to have the attention of the citizens they serve and protect, but he hope the new video gets the attention of those in city hall.
“We want to be prioritized at the top, and not an afterthought with what is leftover,” said Luciano.
We reached out to the Virginia Beach Police Department about the survey. They declined an on camera interview but released this statement:
"City Manager Dave Hanson and Department Directors have had meetings concerning the employee survey. Two weeks ago Chief Cervera met with representatives of the Police Benevolent Association as well as the Fraternal Order of Police to discuss the survey results, and again last week Chief Cervera had a sit down conversation with the Police Benevolent Association Board."