‘I believe the heroes are out there.’ Roanoke Police recruiter stays confident despite dozens of officer vacancies

Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 6:54 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - There’s a delicate balance between the physical demands and the demands outside of the gym, in the classroom.

16 recruits between two academies running at the same time are working to get a badge and a gun. That work is needed now more than ever.

“I believe the heroes are out there, I just need to find them, we need to find them, I believe in the one team, one fight approach, everyone is a recruiter,” said Nicholas Comas, a police recruiter with 14 years under his belt in Roanoke City.

He’s responsible for getting men and women interested in becoming officers, and help guide them through securing a spot in the academy.

“I’m the front end of the process where the background investigators pick up on the back end of the process, so I’m the front door of this agency, who you want to speak to or need to speak to to get you through the processes,” said Comas.

The 27-week academy is not for the faint of heart, but it’s necessary, to ensure overall department numbers increase.

Right now RPD has 209 sworn officers. That includes the 16 recruits. It also includes Chief Roman and Comas.

“When we look at numbers, we can do more officers; with more qualified officers, I wouldn’t say it’s a concern as much as an obligation for the police agency,” said Comas.

That obligation means filling 55 vacancies. Last year there were 46 vacancies. The year before that, only 20.

“With the recruits that we got coming up I think we’re gonna hit the boots running,” said recruit Maurice Jones.

Jones is in his mid 40s and is one of the oldest recruits to go through the academy, but the current needs of the department aren’t deterring him.

“This class and this class before me is setting the pavement and hopefully we’ll ignite people to actually apply and like I said we’ll get those numbers back up,” said Jones.

But in the meantime, the vacancies mean fewer officers are doing patrols. This year five homicides have already occurred. Two shootings happened earlier this week, one that damaged a Roanoke City School bus.

“We can serve the community better with more officers; it doesn’t take a way from the value that our officers bring to the table, but we’re more flexible on how we can patrol, police the community, everything from community engagement to investigations is sometimes impacted by a lack of numbers,” said Comas.

If you are interested in learning more about the RPD academy you can do so here.

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