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Personnel emergency declared as FCPD tackles staffing challenges

Fairfax County Police Department officers are sworn in (via Office of Chairman Jeff McKay)

The Fairfax County Police Department is under a personnel emergency amid a staffing shortage that has continued for several months. 

In a temporary shift, police officers are transitioning to two 12.5-hour shifts and working mandatory overtime, according to the FCPD. That departs from the standard staffing model of three 11.5-hour shifts.

Additionally, patrol officers “may be required” to help other squads to maintain safe staffing levels, FCPD told FFXnow.

So far, the police department has 194 operational vacancies, but that does not account for 50 recruits currently in the police academy. That leaves 144 total vacancies.

“We have launched a multi-media recruiting campaign this summer with updates videos on our new JoinFCPD.org website,” a spokesperson said.

Some say the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has failed to provide adequate salary increases and other incentives to attract and retain the county’s police force.

While officers saw an average pay increase of nearly 8% in this fiscal year, beginning July 1, pay scale steps were frozen between fiscal years 2019 and 2021.

The salary increases that some officers received this fiscal year doesn’t make up for what was previously promised to them,” Steve Manohan, president of the county’s chapter of the Southern States Police Benevolent Association said. “Keep in mind, there were hundreds of officers who only received a 4% cost of living increase in fiscal year 2022.”

Board Chairman Jeff McKay says the board is working with FCPD to recruit and retain officers, noting that Chief Kevin Davis has a plan to reach out across the county, region and nationwide — including non-traditional means like advertisements at movie theaters. The department has also reduced the length of its application and background information requirements in an effort to streamline the process.

All of this is done to position FCPD as an exciting and meaningful career choice for those who may have a calling for public service,” McKay wrote in a statement.

McKay says the county is looking at different ways to support officers as staffing adjustments continue.

“The Fairfax County Police Department is a top destination for anyone who wants to serve their community, and we will continue to get that message out while also exploring ways to maintain our regional competitiveness in compensation and job satisfaction,” he said. “Like with all municipalities during this pandemic era there is much work to be done, but our team–and especially our officers–are up to the task, and we are here to support them 100%.”

Still, Manohan says more must be done to address the “exodus” of police officers from the county.

“Our board maintains that a three-step decompression of the pay scale, or 15% pay raise is a reasonable and good faithed effort to stop the exodus of officers from leaving the department and makes an honest investment of the public safety of Fairfax County,” Manohan said.

Part of that hiring commitment includes increasing the number of women in the police. By 2030, the police department hopes that at least 30% of its workforce will consist of female police officers. 

“An internal look at retention are all aspects of a multifaceted approach to returning to our complete staffing model,” the spokesperson said.

High vacancy rates have plagued the public safety sector across the country. In Fairfax County, the sheriff’s office has been affected as well.

Manohan says the time to act is now. 

With nearly 200 operational vacancies within the department, violent crime increasing, and officers being forced to work longer hours; the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has failed to address the serious issues concerning the rank and file of our department,” he wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

The FCPD reported an overall drop in crime last year compared to 2020, though there was an uptick in homicides.

It’s unclear when staffing will resume to normal operations, according to the FCPD. The department did not provide specific information on how staffing shortages may impact service, shifts, hours, and the composition of police units.

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