Officers’ comments shed light on VBPD morale problem

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your side continues to look into morale problems within the Virginia Beach Police Department. Tuesday, we obtained the comment section for a quality of work life survey given to officers in October.

The survey asked officers for their opinions on the department, and their comments filled 91 pages. You’ll find words like morale, leadership and communication, and mostly in a negative light.

Document: 2014 Member Survey (Police) Verbatim Comments

Chief Jim Cervera told 10 On Your Side he didn’t think his department suffered from a lack of morale, but the survey comments beg the question: How could he have not known?

“Department morale is the lowest it has been,” one officer wrote.

“I believe the leadership on the police department needs to care more about its officers,” another officer said.

“Leaders do not effectively role-model and officers do not trust or respect its leaders” (2,6) another officer said.

10 On Your Side has spent two weeks looking into Virginia Beach police. We learned officers were so unhappy with the way the department is being run, they staged a “silent protest” over the Memorial Day weekend. Officers answered the calls for police service they were required to, but nothing more. And the results don’t lie — officers wrote half the number of tickets they did over Memorial Day 2014.

“I have observed my department steadily decline, in terms of values in the work place over the last two years,” one officer wrote.

10 On Your Side has asked Cervera for on-camera interview for several days now, and we’re told he was out of the office and unavailable. We want to get his reaction to the officer comments. He did tell us last week, he needs to do a better job of communicating with his officers.

“The upper command only communicates what benefits them,” another officer wrote.

Some comments are calling for a change at the top.

“The senior ‘leadership’ in the police department is nonexistent at this point,” one officer wrote. “There is no confidence in the ‘leadership’!”

Mayor Will Sessoms called the morale issues “troubling,” and said as soon as he heard about it, he talked with Chief Cervera.

“He also provided a briefing for the city council, and I know he’s working with his staff internally to address the underlying issues,” Sessoms said. “I truly believe we have a great chief and great officers on the street. I have complete confidence Chief Cervera and the officers are working through these concerns and will get things back in balance.”

City Manager Jim Spore told the way officers expressed their concerns is “disturbing.”

“Public safety is far too important to allow internal concerns, no matter how legitimate they may be, to affect how we police this community,” Spore said. “These are challenging times for policing nationally, and we’re seeing that reflected locally.

Spore said the city conducts the surveys annually, specifically to uncover issues within the city, like the morale issues at the VBPD. The surveys and comments, he said, help them make plans to address any problems.

“Chief Cervera is one of the best police leaders in the country and has my full support, as does the entire Virginia Beach Police Department,” Spore said. “This is one of the finest police agencies anywhere, with one of the best records for reducing crime, increasing perceptions of safety and successfully engaging with the community to make Virginia Beach the safest city of our size in the U.S.”

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