CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Forty-four new Virginia State Police troopers were presented diplomas during what a former superintendent describes as the department's worst staffing shortage he's ever seen.
The 124th generation of the Virginia State Police Academy graduated at their headquarters on the Midlothian Turnpike Friday morning.
Even though more than three dozen new sworn troopers will soon report to their assignments across the Commonwealth, the new additions does not diminish the vacancies the department needs to fill.
A spokesperson said the department has around 222 vacancies in the field.
In September, former superintendent of the Virginia State Police, Wayne Huggins described the department’s current staffing shortage as the worst he’s seen.
"It's about as bad as I've seen it in recent years, well perhaps ever," he said.
After Governor Terry McAuliffe announced in August that a three percent raise would not happen this year due to state revenue shortfalls, employees are leaving in droves.
This is something Huggins said lowers morale considering the starting pay for Virginia State Police is just over $36,000.
That makes their pay one of the lowest police salaries in the Commonwealth compared to Richmond and Henrico police departments. It's almost $5,000 less the Hanover Country's Sheriff's Office.
Graduating Trooper Thomas Horton from North Chesterfield said he decided to change careers as a physical education teacher with Chesterfield County Schools to law enforcement after feeling a need to serve.
"I feel blessed to be able to have this calling," said Horton. "I just want to help people. Just like teaching, I want to be around people and be involved in the community."
The graduating class also dedicated their designated flag to Tpr. Chad Dermyer who was shot and killed during a training exercise at the Greyhound station on The Boulevard back in March.
Huggins said the department needs a permanent source of funding that doesn't compete with the rest of state’s general funding for budget resources.