Roanoke Police Department struggles with retention

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) -- The Roanoke City Police Department has a problem. The chief says he can't compete with salaries in other parts of the state and he's losing good officers to other departments.

"I want the best for my personnel. I hope we can see some movement of the needle forward," says Chief Tim Jones.

Roanoke Police Chief Tim Jones says it's increasingly hard for him to find and keep good officers.

The department already had 18 positions to fill when 7 current staffers recently put in their notice. There's an academy underway with 16 candidates, leaving them 9 positions down. One problem -- salary.

"Suddenly that pool of candidates that we were attracting could very easily go somewhere else," said Chief Jones.

The department's starting salary is around $37,738-dollars, below State Police's $44,290.

"A Roanoke City PO would have to be in the pay grade almost six years to make up that difference in money," said Chief Jones.

Jones says it's hard to find people who will pass up higher pay in an already high-stakes profession. And his payroll problems are about to get worse -- the city's seen a moderate increase in revenue, but this this week, the city said he's losing 119-thousand dollars from his budget and he expects more cuts.

He says as budget talks continue, he remains "guardedly optimistic."

"So we can remain competitive, and we can continue to draw high caliber quality applicants to the Roanoke Police Department because we are truly in competition with everybody else around us, " said Chief Jones.