Alexandria police follow fire union, plead for boost in pay and hires

First, it was the firefighters of Alexandria, Virginia. This week, the city’s police union sent a scathing letter to city leaders demanding more staffers and a boost in pay.

In an open letter to city leaders, Alexandria’s police union said years of mismanagement have taken a toll.

“These officers are just stressed out,” said union vice president Lt. Marcus Downey. “I’ve never seen it like this, and as far as we know, there’s zero being done at city hall to rectify this.”

The letter states that officers are being shuffled to cover vacant positions. The entry level pay is among the lowest compared to other local departments, and many officers are looking to leave.

“We have fought for fair pay for decades, and yet our starting salary ranks 13th out of the 14 Northern Virginia law enforcement agencies,” the letter says. “It is simply not reasonable to believe we can hire and retain public safety staff when our compensation is second to the last.”

Last week, the city firefighters’ union sent a letter to the mayor, city manager and city council asking that the city hire 70 more firefighters, increase pay and boost benefits so members are less likely to seek work at other, higher-paying departments.

The police union said city leaders have told them in the past that a hike in pay means an uptick in taxes, which could anger residents.

“We are told the only way to increase pay is to increase taxes,” the police union wrote. “Yet, somehow, brand new programs have been funded by the city just this calendar year without a tax increase.”

The city said it’s working on making improvements and blamed much of the problem on the pandemic.

In a written statement to WTOP, the council said: “The pandemic and the tight labor market have made it more challenging to attract and retain employees in many city departments. The city has started planning for the next fiscal year, and compensation will be a priority.”

The city also said it will not wait for collective bargaining to improve pay for city employees but will begin looking at taking interim steps now.

Gigi Barnett

Gigi Barnett is an anchor at WTOP. She has worked in the media for more than 20 years. Before joining WTOP, she was an anchor at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas, and a staff reporter at The Miami Herald. She’s a Navy wife and mom of three.

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