Virginia’s Fairfax County Police Department is offering $15,000 to new officers in an attempt to fill nearly 200 staff vacancies.
Police Chief Kevin Davis said Friday he’s never seen a staffing shortage this severe, telling “Fox & Friends” that the state’s largest police force is looking to fill 192 open positions, which is about 10% of the organization.
“We’ve never seen this level of a staffing shortage, but we’re fighting really hard to punch our way out of it,” he told co-host Ainsley Earhardt.
Data from police departments across the nation show officer shortages. (Fox News )
Davis said he’s beginning to see signs of success as the latest police academy class boasts 40 recruits – the largest class in years.
Cities across the country have struggled with short-staffed police agencies. National Police Association spokesperson Ret. Sgt. Betsy Branter-Smith told Fox News Digital last month that 11 cities have reported “severe” staffing issues since anti-police rhetoric began ramping up in 2020.
Branter-Smith warned the problem could last years, as it takes a minimum of nine months for someone to become a police officer.
Chief Davis said the $15,000 signing bonus is likely one factor behind the large class of recruits, but he noted that all the local departments are in competition for the potential officers.
“If you’re a qualified police applicant today, and you’re entering the profession for the right reasons, you’re like an unrestricted free agent in the NFL,” he explained. “You really have your choice of where to go.”
Davis said he believes the staff shortage itself is also driving away current officers. Maintaining high-quality services with fewer officers requires those who remained on staff to work additional hours and mandatory overtime.
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA – OCTOBER 30: A police car is parked outside as people visit Mosaic Shopping Center Mall on October 30, 2021 in Fairfax Virginia. ((Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images))
But incoming officers, Davis explained, are prioritizing their personal lives as well.
“Today’s young police officer, they value their work-life balance. They value their training, their education. They value their time off with their family,” Davis said.
“So we’re working really hard to be that police department that has a lot to offer its police officers.”
Davis remained optimistic, however, that his department is making gains on the problem by investing in young officers and providing the training and balance they need.
“We’re showing some early signs of turning the corner on this,” he said. “We’ve got a little bit of ways in front of us. But like other police departments across the country, we’re all trying to figure out the way forward.”
Fox News’ Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.
Amy Nelson is a producer with Fox News Digital.