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Virginia State Police Today and Tomorrow: Efforts focused on recruiting, reducing attrition rate

Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 6:17 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The day starts hours before the sun is up.

Dressed in suits and ties, ten men, who will make up part of the 135th Basic Session of Trooper Trainees, report to Richmond one last time before their academy starts at the end of June.

For the past ten years, the Virginia State Police academy has had a 30 percent attrition rate.

“Well, some of the reasons that people leave any agency, ours in particular, would be pay, lack of pay, a lot of things people see on the news, they think it would be easier or safer. Being a police officer is a calling,” said Recruiter and senior trooper Richard Jarrell.

The starting salary for troopers is $44,290. They are compensated throughout the 29 week academy, and any additional training needed for specialties.

When First Sergeant White goes around the room and asks why these soon-to-be trooper trainees want to be part of the VSP, he gets answers like “I want to serve, or “My family is in law enforcement.”

Those are answers recruiter and senior trooper Richard Jarrell says are common.

“People relate back to what has happened in 2020 and they say they want to change the world they live in, they want to change their community for their children and grandchildren,” said Jarrell.

Yet 14 percent of positions are currently open.

As of March 25, 2021, VSP had 2,161 total authorized sworn positions. On that date, there were also 308 sworn vacancies.

A few miles from VSP headquarters, the men who passed their weigh-ins go through several medical exams. Tests, before the ultimate test.

“We put on our badge and our gun every day and face whatever is out there, and if it means saving a life and giving our life up, then that’s what we do,” said Jarrell.

The day wraps up with a uniform fitting. It’s the first time these men try on the pants, shirts and hat that will label them as troopers. A reward, and a reminder of what they’re about to face.

“It’s something you decide you’re going to do regardless of the danger,” said Jarrell.

The risk is communicated, but the approach to getting men and women interested, and hopefully reducing the attrition rate, has changed.

“Every recruiter, every trooper has a story and when I talk to troopers on the road and ask them to assist in recruiting, I say to them, you need to communicate why you became a trooper, because whatever reason it is that you became a trooper, that’s the same reason that other people are out there thinking about a vocation with the Virginia State Police,” said Jarrell.

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