VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The Virginia Beach Police Benevolent Association 34 mailed a letter to Chief of Police Jim Cervera, Mayor Will Sessoms and City Manager David Hansen.
The letter highlighted their concerns in light of recent attacks on law enforcement officers across the country.
“Recently, it has become painfully obvious that a new, more dangerous, era is upon us,” the letter said.
The officers are asking for a minimum of two officers responding to every call. They’re also asking the chief to keep or add to the budget for training and equipment.
The letter also calls out concerns for staffing numbers.
“Manpower is at an already dangerous level. A level that will undoubtedly become worse as our city grows,” PBA president, Brian Luciano, said in the letter. “This must be addressed now before it becomes too late and we are trying desperately to catch up.”
Monday Chief Cervera sat down only with 10 On Your Side’s Deanna LeBlanc and addressed the letter. Chief Cervera said he and Luciano are in almost weekly contact and that he was aware the letter was in the mail.
Cervera said he did not disagree with any of the concerns raised.
“There’s nothing I really disagree with. For example, he [Luciano] brings up the manpower issue. We know that. We presented our budget to city council. They gave us 10 new positions,” Cervera said.
The department has about 60 vacancies and 800 officers on the force, according to Cervera.
The chief said he just returned from a trip to Washington D.C., where he presented his case to Virginia’s Congressional delegation, asking for a grant to hire 15 more officers. Cervera also told WAVY.com he expects 50 candidates to enroll in the next class of the police academy, but cautioned that those officers will take several months before they join the force.
Cervera says he does not believe that the threat to police is any greater than it has been in the past, but that the situation has changed.
“I have to feel for the officers not only here in Virginia Beach in this region, but across the country. This is a situation where you’re not running into an individual armed with a gun, you’re running into someone who has planned an ambush with a high powered rifle,” Cervera said.
Cervera says he understands that right now is a difficult time to wear a police uniform and he plans to make an effort to be present at shift musters to let his officers know he supports them.
“I can put an email or a memo out, but that’s like a robocall. So we take the time take the effort to make that contact. Letting the officers know they’re supported, letting them know that this is a dangerous profession. They are the thin blue line, they are guardians of democracy and we keep reinforcing that.”