WOODBRIDGE, Va. (DC News Now) — Police officers sworn to protect Virginia’s second-largest county will soon see some more money in their paychecks. But there’s frustration from other agencies who say they need the help too.
On Tuesday, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted to raise the minimum salary for officers from just over $52,000 to $62,000. It’s a notable jump that puts it ahead of several counties in Northern Virginia it historically has lagged behind; however, it’s expected those counties are also set to raise starting salaries in the upcoming year.
Master Police Office Chris Leclair spoke to the supervisors during public comment, asking them to approve the salary hike.
“Please begin to rebuild your broken relationship and your broken trust with your police department,” he said.
Prior to the unanimous vote by the board, Supervisor Victor Angry described why he views this investment into public safety as an important one.
“We’ve got so much going on,” Angry said. “We see the gun violence, we see the speeding… I need my police officers.”
The scheduled pay hike is funded by a surplus — some of which will go to county schools, as is required, with the rest covering salaries for the remainder of the 2023 fiscal year.
But because Prince William does not project to be the only jurisdiction raising salaries, it expects there’s still a ways to go.
“I can tell you now coming up in this budget cycle, compensation’s probably going to be the biggest item that we are looking at,” said Acting County Executive Elijah Johnson.
Prince William County Police tells DC News Now its sworn staff is down by roughly 85 people — about 12% of the 707 that make up a fully staffed department.
“We have had officers who have said, in particular, they’re leaving because of the salary issue,” Police Chief Peter Newsham told the board. He acknowledged he doesn’t believe a salary increase will stop officers from leaving to join federal agencies, but it might help with others who have left PWCPD for departments including the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and Northern Virginia Community College’s force.
Mitch Nason, who leads the county’s firefighters union Local 2598, applauds the raises for the officers but said the board cannot stop with police.
“Unfortunately, [firefighters] are facing a lot of the exact same problems,” Nason said.
Nason said in some ways it’s even worse for the fire crews based on hourly wages.
“I ask that you all please include the entirety of our public safety community when you have these discussions and deliberations,” he said.
Later in the board’s meeting, it was requested that the county review firefighter pay. In a Facebook post, Local 2598 wrote: “…we can only HOPE the findings are addressed in a timely matter. However, hope doesn’t recruit and retain firefighters.”