Short nearly 200 officers, Fairfax PD staffing ‘at a crisis level’ ahead of holiday season

November 22, 2022


By Nick Minock

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (7News) — Thanksgiving tends to be one of the most dangerous and deadly times on U.S. roads due to increases in impaired drivers and reckless driving.

Going into the holiday season, the Fairfax County Police Department is facing a shortage of police officers – officers who are responsible for enforcing traffic laws and getting drunk drivers off the roads.

Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said recruiting classes have gotten larger. However, the Fairfax County Police Department is still facing a staffing crisis.

“When you’re down around 200 officers and you’ve disbanded your specialty units, of course, it’s at a crisis level,” Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity told 7News on Tuesday.

Herrity says The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors needs to focus on keeping current officers by paying them more.

“We’ve seen increases in crime, we’ve seen increased traffic accidents and pedestrians fatalities,” said Herrity. “Public safety isn’t something you can ignore. It will catch up to you and it is catching up with us.”

7News was the first to report the staffing emergency at FCPD over the summer.

At that time, FCPD was short 189 officers, Davis told 7News in August.

Vacancies later reached above 200, according to police sources. Now FCPD is short 192 officers, Davis told 7News on Tuesday.

“We’ve still seen a higher rate of resignations than retirements,” Davis told 7News. “We are doing all we can to keep people focused on the value of policing. It’s still the greatest job in the world. We just need to increase the volume of the right candidates who want to do this job for the right reasons.”

Davis hopes new recruitment efforts, including a $15,000 signing bonus for new officers, will help.

“This is a hot market and we are all in competition with each other. The application pool has dwindled over the past couple of years,” Davis said. “We have great support from the Board of Supervisors and the community at large. So we have to consider many things like compensation and financial incentives and other benefits to attract people to the job because a police applicant in 2022 has a varied menu of choices about where to go and young people are paying attention more now than they ever have.”

“In about a week and a half that 192 will go to 154 when we start our largest police academy class in several years,” added Davis.

“They’re still in a crisis level,” said Herrity. “We’re still around 200 short. Through September, we had 101 officers leave. We’ve had a couple of recruit classes, some transfers into a total of about 57. We got one more recruit class coming in. We’re going to have some additional resignations. So we’re still at a net loss on officers. We still got work to do.”

Herrity praised the $15,000 signing bonus for new officers, but he said it came too late. He blamed the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for failing to act quickly enough. The Board of Supervisors is led by Chairman Jeffrey McKay.

“I think it was late, but I’m happy it was there,” said Herrity. “I wish we had given them the salary increases. The best thing we can do is retain our current officers. That’s going to help a lot with bringing new officers in, but we really need to focus on retaining current officers.”

“There were some ideas put on the table last budget,” Herrity added. “Salary increase that got cut in half and spread across all public safety agencies rather than given to the patrol staff where we really need them – Second Lieutenant below. We could extend Drop. That was also on the table. So there are some creative things that we should and can be doing. And I hope that the board will come around on it.”

Herrity predicts more officers will have to retire by the end of the year.

“Simply, [the ] Drop [program] is officers pick their retirement date three years out, and they can’t work past that date,” he said. “So they’re not allowed to work past that three years. We can extend that by a year or two years with literally no cost to the government.”

“And the board said no?” 7News’ Nick Minock asked.

“And the board said no,” Herrity replied.

One place some officers have gone to is Amazon.

“Amazon is certainly a challenge not just for Fairfax but for police departments around the country,” Davis said. “We have to be creative We have to be the employer of choice and there is a commitment to do so.”

But Supervisor Herrity expressed doubt that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has that commitment.

“We need to get back to public safety being a priority in Fairfax County,” said Herrity.

Fairfax County is beginning its budget process soon. 7News will let you know if the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approves pay raises for current officers – or not – to address the staffing crisis.

“We hope we are turning the corner a little bit on recruiting,” said Davis. “We had five Fairfax County police officers who resigned in the last year who came back, so they came back to the job. So that’s exciting. The grass isn’t always greener.”