Virginia Beach police officers respond negatively to survey about pay

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A survey about police officer's compensation drew overwhelmingly negative responses, according to the Virginia Beach Police Benevolent Association.

About 150 officers responded to the survey, which was done by the Benevolent Association. About 70% of the officers said they have actively looked for another job within the last year.

Another response said about 65% said they disagree that public safety is a priority for city leadership. "The results were not positive at all," said Brian Luciano, the president of the Virginia Beach Police Benevolent Association. "I was surprised some of the numbers were so high."

The department has 828 sworn personnel with 17 current vacancies, according to a department spokesperson. Chief Jim Cervera was not available to comment on Friday, but previously acknowledged recruiting and retention are issues for the department. "It's kind of disheartening to see someone with three years of police service decide that they're going to leave the city and move on to another police agency," Cervera told city council in April.

Luciano says compensation is among the biggest issues for retention. "It boils down to better compensation in every regard: health care and pay," he said.

Virginia Beach police officers have a starting salary around $43,000 after graduation from the police academy. That figure puts them on par with Hampton and Chesapeake for the highest of the seven cities. Cervera told city council that some officers are leaving for other states or more lucrative government jobs.

Mayor Will Sessoms said he was "concerned" to hear the results of the survey. He said the recession took its toll on city budgets across the country, but the city didn't cut any public safety positions during that period. "I'll look any police in the eye and say, 'That's wrong. We do care about our public safety positions,'" he said.

The mayor added that he's asked for a study to compare salaries and that the city is trying to give more money for public safety. "It will be my commitment to that we make sure our police department is the best paid in the region," Sessoms said.