Two labor groups that support police officers in Arlington are pushing the Virginia county to address starting pay ahead of its annual budget discussions.
With the Arlington County Board discussing its upcoming Fiscal Year 2023 budget, the Arlington Coalition of Police and the Arlington Police Beneficiary Association are asking the board for a 10% raise across the board once the new budget kicks in July 1.
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“We are not asking for an increase to make us the best-paid department in the area, just one to make us competitive,” the two organizations said in a statement. “A 10% across the board increase would put us into the top 6 for each category, making our pay structure more comparable to the agencies that recruits have chosen over us in the recent past.”
The groups said a lack of financial support for the department is leading to a drop off in manpower on county streets.
The Arlington County Board’s decision to freeze merit-based pay increases for FY2021 and FY2022 — which together would have been an 11% raise per officer — have caused officers to look for better paying jurisdictions within the D.C. area, according to the police organizations.
They said that the department lost 50 employees last year; in comparison, Arlington police lost 37 and 36 officers in 2019 and 2020, respectively. The two organizations said that the force has already lost 16 officers this year, putting the department on track to lose over 60 officers by the year’s end.
Overall, the unions said there are only 290 officers on the force out of 376 allotted positions. They added that the amount of the spent on overtime to maintain minimum staffing could have gone to hiring five new officers.
Challenges in bringing in new talent are compounded by the image issues police departments are experiencing across the country.
“The national narrative on policing has made it difficult to recruit and retain officers across the nation, not just in Arlington County,” the two unions said in their joint release. “The pool of individuals willing to enter this profession has dwindled and the departments in the Washington, D.C. region are all competing for the same applicants.”
This week, the Arlington Police Department said it would change how it handles some cases and will reduce some service due to labor shortages.