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Virginia Beach Police Department stresses need to hire, keep police officers

The city's police chief said new practices are in place to help retain the department's officers.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Virginia Beach's new police chief says the department needs more officers and hiring is not an easy assignment.

On Tuesday, Chief Paul Neudigate presented some suggestions to the city council to hire more qualified candidates.

“Thank you for this opportunity to come in and present the 2020 Part 1 Crime Review," said Neudigate. 

Neudigate explained some crime dropped last year: “28 percent reduction in property crime over the five-year [2016-2020]."

However, other types, like shootings, increased in 2020. 

“We went from 28 non-fatal shooting victims in 2019 to 77 in 2020.”

Chief Neudigate said the department needs to hire more police officers to help bring those crime numbers down.

“Virginia Beach Police Department has authorized 813 sworn positions. As we stand today, we only have 761 actual sworn officers," explained Neudigate. There are 92 positions currently open. 

He said this year, hiring and keeping officers is difficult.

“On top of pay issues, is this national police sentiment and it's making it very challenging for both recruiting and retention," said Neudigate. 

Neudigate emphasized he wants to hire more minorities. He shared they lost multiple recruits from the last Academy.

“Recruits of color that we have had, I believe we’ve lost three or four out of the last Academy that graduated in December. Then they laid it right on the line for us that there was pushback from their community, there is pushback from the family and there is pushback from their friends," said Neudigate. 

Credit: Angelo Vargas

Virginia Beach mayor Bobby Dyer said it's tough to recruit officers after a year of civil unrest.

“We are having a situation where nationally it is rough to recruit police. And for us to be a safe city we have to find ways of recruitment and retention," said Dyer. 

Chief Neudigate said the police department received grant money from the state to improve its out-of-date recruitment software.

“Right now our recruiting strategies are done on outdated Microsoft XL spreadsheets and pen and paper, and we really need to get into the 21st-century," said Neudigate. 

He also changed some officers' shifts to keep enough patrols on the street.

“Implement some mandatory overtime to backfill shifts to make sure that we have sufficient street strength out there to accommodate call for service for the citizens of Virginia Beach," the police chief said.