Survey: Va. Beach officers overwhelmingly unhappy with salaries

Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera. (WAVY Photo).

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A survey just done by the Virginia Beach Police Benevolent Association find that officers are overwhelmingly unhappy with their salaries.

“Well, unfortunately, it wasn’t very surprising,” PBA President Brian Luciano said.

It’s not surprising in any job that employees want more pay, but Virginia Beach officers feel undervalued.

“Right now it doesn’t seem that the police department is being prioritized,” Luciano added.

To illustrate that point, the PBA asked its member to take a 22-question survey about know how officers felt about their salaries.

“When you have the vast majority of officers say they wouldn’t recommend a career here in Virginia Beach as a police officer that’s a problem,” Luciano said.

READ: Full Survey Results

The numbers tell a story. A total of 157 of PBA’s 400 officers took the survey. The police department has 800 officers on staff.

Among those surveyed, 74 percent say they would leave the area for a better paying job in law enforcement. Another 80 percent of officers say they would be willing to go into another profession for more pay.

Meanwhile, 70 percent say they’ve looked for other jobs in the last year. And 70 percent say they are forced to work a second job to make ends meet.

“Would I like to see everybody better compensated?” Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera asked. “Absolutely.100 percent.”

Cervera says he has fought to get his officers more pay over the past few years, and will do the same again.

“I think it goes beyond the city manager and city council,” Cervera said. “I think it goes to the citizens at the core of our city to look at police, and decide what they do is extremely important and if we can compensate them better let’s look at a way to do that.”

That could require raising taxes. Right now, the department is losing about 10 percent of its officers every year.  That’s a problem — considering taxpayers paid for their training.

“It is very disheartening — our men and women deciding to pick up and go to another organization,” Cervera added.

“No one is against the city growing, but I we just want to grow with it,” Luciano said. “My position has always been that we are part of the infrastructure and we need to grow along with the city.”

“We do care about everyone that serves in public safety in Virginia Beach,” added Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms.

The city council and city manager determine the budget for the officers. Sessoms says he is looking for ways to get police more money.

“We should do everything we can to make sure they want to stay,” Sessoms said.

Sessoms points to recent recession and the fact that no officers were laid off. He says pay depends on the economy.

“I want our police officers to enjoy working in Virginia Beach and want them to feel that they are fairly compensated,” Sessoms added.

One of the questions from officers is why keep spending for major projects instead of giving the money to those who wear a badge?  The mayor the tax dollars those projects generate help pay for the salaries to behind with.

“A simple answer is if we didn’t do this we would have less money to pay today than what we do,” Sessoms said. “I’m committed to make sure the city of Virginia Beach Police Department is the best thing I can do and the market will drive what that pay should be.”

Sessoms says the city council has asked for a study on salaries to determine how more money can go to the police department.