NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- The Norfolk Sheriff's Office is aligning with the military's hiring age, and lowering their job applicant requirement.

Before, someone had to be 21 to join the agency. Now, Norfolk is one of the only sheriff offices to hire 18-year-olds.

Law enforcement departments across the country have had issues recruiting, and the Norfolk Sheriff's Office is no exception.

Lieutenant Meryah Breeden said part of the reason is a negative perception of law enforcement.

“No one wants to be in a position where you're constantly being judged for your actions,” said Lt. Breeden. “So it's been harder to get people excited for that kind of job track.”

Complicating things further is Norfolk is one of the lowest paid sheriff's offices in the area, causing deputies to leave the force to join other cities for higher pay. In 2014, turnover was 16 percent, in 2016 it was 19 percent, and 2018 is projected to be 22 percent.

"Our starting salary is $33,000," said Lieutenant Meryah Breeden. "But you could go to Chesapeake, and they make about $42,000 ... it makes it hard when you're recruiting for the same exact job."

Karen Pinkston, spokesperson for the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office said, “The new sheriff and new mayor are very optimistic that we can find a way to increase our deputy pay and reduce our turnover.”

Candidates are required to have a high school diploma or GED, and a valid Virginia or North Carolina Driver License.

The starting salary for a deputy is $33,637, plus benefits. Interested candidates can apply online at