RICHMOND, Va. -- City cops are getting the community involved in their wage war by unveiling a billboard on Interstate 95 South and Interstate 64 East near Arthur Ashe Boulevard.
The Richmond Coalition of Police calls it “informing the public,” but Mayor Levar Stoney says it's “bush league.”
That part of the highway will have hundreds of thousands of cars, trucks and SUV's rolling through, with a lot of eyeballs seeing a message that the city is in crisis.
"I really want to spread awareness to the citizens,” said Brendan Levy, from the Richmond Coalition of Police. “I don't think they really know how bad it is and how few officers are on the streets."
"For this organization to spring a new pay plan during a pandemic doesn't make a lot of sense,” said Stoney. “They could've been more strategic about it, maybe asked for this a few years ago, but we never heard a word. I'm glad we supported them this year and gave them two pay steps. This in one year I'm willing to sit down further, but tactics like this are bush league."
Mayor Stoney said other mid-sized cities are experiencing the same staffing shortages that Richmond is.
"I’ve supported a pay increase for police and fire every year except the pandemic year,” said Stoney. “So they have a right to their opinion, but not to their own facts."
"Crime is up 18%,” said Levy. “Homicides are up 20%, robberies 24%. Officers aren't being proactive because they don't have the backup.”
Crime Insider sources tell me veteran officers have fled the city ranks to join up with suburban squads. Since last year, my sources say 40 to 60 officers have either retired, transferred or left the business.
Some people that live in the city say they are noticing.
"When you in Hanover or you're in Chesterfield, you feel like the police is on the job, but you don't feel like that in the city and maybe it's because they need to be paid," said Cassandra Jones.
"I do think they deserve raises and also teachers,” said John Rusak. “It'll always be like that in my opinion, not to mention if you pay the cops better, they have better days and people feel safer."
One resident I spoke to says he supports officers in the metro area having equal pay across the region, but he said he's disappointed it has come to a billboard, feeling it gives criminals glaring and free intelligence.