Police, fire shortage has some fearful

Posted at 7:42 PM, Jan 30, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-30 20:25:57-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- According to Richmond police and fire officials, fewer city officers and firefighters are on the street -- and that has some worried about safety.

Richmond Coalition of Police President Stacy Rogers said the decrease is a direct result of officers not receiving a raise from the city in five years.

"We don't want to try and cry broke, but our guys are really having a hard time,” Rogers said. "It's easy, I think, if we don't speak up, to be ignored. And the truth is we've done a good job,” said Rogers.

As a result of the lower wages, Rogers said officers are taking jobs in the other jurisdictions for better pay, benefits and opportunities.

According to Richmond police, 34 officers, including retirees, left the department last year. A similar number, 39, left the in 2011.

Rogers worries the public would be at risk if more cops leave.

“There's going to be less of us there which means when you pick up and dial 911," Rogers said. "It's going to take longer for us to get there because there's fewer of us."

Keith Andes, Richmond Firefighters Association Local 995 president, said firefighters have gone without raises, too.

“It takes about $100,000 to train one of our new recruits... That it is an investment again for the taxpayers," Andes said. "When that person leaves to take a job elsewhere, that’s money lost.

Andes said seven firefighters left the department last year and that eight left in 2011.

However, Andes said there are a number of things the city can do to keep firefighters happy.

"We can’t go on strike. We are what we are. And so, all we're saying is that we'll make the good argument," Andes said. "And we'll say we have some good ideas and we'd like to sit down with Mr. Marshall, the CAO, or the Mayor, if they will give us their time and listen to us.”

And while Mayor Dwight Jones is faced with a $30 million budget shortfall this fiscal year.

Richmond City Council's Reva Trammell wants to see a budget that includes more money for city employees, including police and firefighters.

“Our police officers and firefighters are the back bone of this city. And if they don’t feel safe in our city, who’s going to come here and teach? Who’s going to bring all of the businesses here?” she asked.

The Mayor’s Press Secretary, Tammy Hawley, released the following statement to CBS 6.

“The budget is still being put together. And there’s no specifics to show what’s in the budget just yet," Hawley said. "But they are in fact exploring if pay raises are possible for city employees.”