Special Report: Building Up the Badge

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Local police recruiters are looking for qualified candidates to join their departments.

10 On Your Side looked into the number of officers who serve in our area and the vacancies at departments throughout the seven cities.

“It’s an ongoing challenge for us,” said Portsmouth police recruiter MPO Michael Floriano.

Floriano has worked as a Portsmouth police officer for 20 years. This summer, he became the newest recruiter. He says their department — which currently employs 224 officers — has 42 openings.

“It’s a little bit to do with danger and society has changed,” he said as to the reasons why there’s a number of openings.

Floriano says there’s a lot of interest in joining, but applicants aren’t always the right fit.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have enough qualified people at this point. So, we’re taking applications,” he says.

The Virginia Beach Police Department has the most officers with 828. It also has the most openings with 57.

Newport News police have 21 vacancies.

Both Chesapeake and Suffolk have three openings.

Hampton police say they’re completely staffed.

Norfolk employs 745 officers and has 30 openings. Their recruiter, Valencia Keese, says having a full staff allows them to build stronger community relationships.

“Even with what’s going on, we maintain a standard because we want quality officers out in the community,” she says.

Keese, who’s been at the department for nine years, says a full staff gives officers the opportunity to get out and interact with residents and not just respond to crime.

Floriano says under-staffing isn’t a safety concern to residents. They’ve actually been able to decrease the crime rate with less resources.

“It sounds kind of funny, but it has. Maybe it’s the quality of people we’re bringing in,” he says.

Floriano credits community programs, a recent pay raise and the appeal of a smaller department as reasons on why to join Portsmouth. He also says diversity is something they’re working on.

Keese agrees and says they’re always looking for minorities, women and veterans.

“It’s one thing to just respond to a call but sometimes, people need someone who offers understanding of what they’re going through. It’s hard to say, ‘I understand what you’re going through’ when you’ve never gone through it,” she says.

To learn more about the qualifications and recruiting process, visit the following department’s webpages: