Virginia State Police requests funds for nearly 250 new staff, pay raises
Officials at Virginia State Police are aiming to grow their ranks by hiring nearly 250 new employees and offering pay raises for existing staff, according to budget requests the department submitted in October.
The increased staffing would allow the department to better meet a mission that has “grown exponentially in size, scope, and complexity” over the past 25 years — and a workforce that has not kept pace with those demands — according to paperwork submitted to the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget.
The new roles would grow VSP’s workforce by around 9% compared to the roughly 2,750 salaried or wage employees at the department as of the end of September, according to state data.
It’s up to Gov. Glenn Youngkin to decide whether to meet those requests in a budget that he’s set to outline for lawmakers on Dec. 15. His spokesperson declined to comment, but the VSP requests note that funding for new staff is “consistent with the Governor’s priorities of fully funding law enforcement.”
The funding requests would have to get sign off from lawmakers in the General Assembly session that begins in January.
Del. Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach), the top budget writer in the House of Delegates, called VSP’s requests “plausible.”
“I am hopeful these requests will see favor,” Knight wrote in an email.
His counterpart in the Democratic-controlled Senate, Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), did not respond to a request for comment.
The requests come as VSP faces nationwide scrutiny for hiring Austin Lee Edwards. Last month, the former VSP trooper killed three family members of a 15-year-old California teenager he “catfished” online before killing himself.
VSP’s duties include patrolling highways, assisting local and national law enforcement in investigations and conducting investigations into elected officials. The department had roughly 2,750 salaried or wage employees at the end of September, according to state data.
VSP is looking to add 149 sworn officers and 95 civilian employees, including:
- 74 troopers to backfill for officers who joined new tactical units
- 28 dispatchers
- 10 members of a team that investigates cybercrimes
- 6 members of the governor’s security detail, citing “heightened political unrest” and large overtime accrued by the current bodyguards
- 4 new positions in the Office of Internal Affairs to investigate allegations of misconduct; VSP’s request notes those investigations increased more than 30% between 2017 and 2020
- 3 specialists to help improve department strategy and processes, fulfilling what VSP describes as Youngkin’s vision of “transformative leadership in state government”
The department estimates the new employees would cost roughly $25 million next fiscal year if the request is granted in full.
After years of stagnant compensation, VSP officers’ salaries have steadily increased during the past several years, including an 8% raise in the budget signed last year and another bump in this year’s plan. But the department said in its paperwork that hiring “sworn employees into this demanding profession remains exceedingly challenging in the current economic and social climate” and asked for funding to increase salaries. VSP didn’t provide a specific target for the salary increase.
The department is also looking to replace two helicopters: an Airbus that crashed earlier this year and was declared a total loss, and an older helicopter that has “undergone numerous repairs” since it was shot down in 2010.
VSP’s spokesperson declined to elaborate on the requests.
Princess Blanding — a teacher, activist and 2021 gubernatorial candidate whose brother, Marcus Davis Peters, was killed by a Richmond police officer during a mental health crisis in 2018 — said the state should focus on funding education,not law enforcement.
“Our schools aren't even fully staffed,” Blanding said. “We are the first line of defense, we are the first, one of the first lines of public safety. However, we are the last to be fully funded.”