Virginia State Police down nearly 200 troopers
Nearly every state agency in Virginia has had to make cuts after a budget shortfall. Those included cutting a 3 percent raise for state employees. That is making it more difficult for state police to recruit, even as they already face a shortage of troopers. Virginia State Police is the state's primary law enforcement agency from working the roads to assisting local departments in complex criminal cases. "They do it all," State Senator Bill Carrico said. Carrico is a former state trooper. Right now, News 5 found out there are nearly 200 vacancies in the state police force. Carrico said it is a problem he knows first-hand. He said, "You also have the large majority of your counties in 4th division that don't have 24-hour coverage." Last year, state police participated in a study on the number of troopers needed across the state. We tracked down the numbers in our region. Smyth County and Washington County both need an additional four officers. Dickenson County needs two. Russell, Wise, and Buchanan all need one trooper. According to the survey, Scott and Lee Counties are fully staffed. Across the entire division, which is based in Wytheville, the study concludes our area is down 36 troopers in all. "Population has grown, the number of vehicles has grown by 23 percent that travel on the highways, and accidents have skyrocketed," Carrico said. Carrico said the workload for troopers has increased by 156 percent, while pay has remained stagnant. Even though the state pays more than $55,000 training a single trooper, they often leave to serve for higher paying agencies. "It's not worth it. They don't get paid," Carrico said. "They work by themselves and they're left out alone, and the general public doesn't support it." We wanted to know if Tennessee troopers are facing similar issues. We talked with Highway Patrol Lieutenant Rick Garrison, who tells us the Fall Branch district serves 13 counties in northeast Tennessee and employs 84 troopers. The district is down about 6 troopers. "Attrition really has took effect on our department. People leaving due to retirement or disciplinary reasons. We seem to have an issue of trying to get that number up back to where it needs to be," Garrison said. Garrison tells us almost all the vacancies in northeast Tennessee are slated to be filled soon.. In an effort to assist Virginia State Police, we learned Senator Carrico has filed a bill to raise vehicle registration rates by $1.25 for the next 10 years. Carrico said the revenue would support 600 new trooper positions and give troopers more competitive salaries.