FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — Fairfax County is working to reduce the massive number of vacancies in its police department, and it’s planning to do so through bonuses.

Because of an action taken by supervisors, the county executive can now offer a bonus of up to $15,000 to new hires in a few areas, including police officers and sheriff deputies. The effort, lauded and announced by Supervisor Pat Herrity, marked a step forward in the county’s quest to increase what it can offer to new police hires after voting for a 4.5% increase in pay this past fiscal year.

Fairfax County is currently dealing with major staff shortages, as Police Chief Kevin Davis has had to alter shifts for his force. As of April, the department has 217 openings.

In an interview with DC News Now hours after the board’s action, Herrity said the bonuses should be used for positions the county has had trouble filing.

“We’ve got a shortage of officers,” Herrity said. “We want to keep our residents safe and the way to do that is to fill those vacancies.”

Herrity said the county is losing qualified candidates to neighboring communities. Without a signing bonus in Fairfax County, future officers took jobs with the Metropolitan, Prince George’s County, or Arlington County Police Departments — those departments offer sign-on bonuses from $3,000 to $20,000.

“There’s not a lot of people that want to go into this occupation and we need to make sure we get the best here in Fairfax County,” he said.

This comes as the Fairfax County Police Department has upped its recruiting efforts — including a push of new videos and an increase in spending on recruiting. In FY2019, the county spent just over $315,000 on recruiting efforts — both operations and wages for employees working on those tasks. In FY2022, it projects spending just over $735,000.

“Chief Davis is doing the best he can to manage the department with the authority that has been given [to] him and we just gave him additional authority and additional tools for his toolbox,” Herrity said.

Herrity wants the board to take additional actions to ease the issue, including extending the county’s Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) and allowing the chief to hire retired officers to put them back on patrol.