DPD cites staff size, compensation as issues

Glenn Doan, assistant police chief for the Danville Police Department, said the number one reason why officers leave the force at the DPD is because of compensation. The department has lost nine officers to other departments and one to retirement in the last year.

“Officers leave for a variety of reasons, and the bulk of officers that leave our department have three to five years’ experience, and without a doubt the number one reason they leave is because of compensation,” Doan said in an email. “Danville PD is a busy place to work and we have high expectations, and we deliver unparalleled service to the community and our officers must be compensated for such.”

The department is also short-staffed — it is allotted 36 officers but currently has 29, two of whom are still in the academy at the Department of Criminal Justice Training in Richmond, Doan said.

Along with the drop in staff has come an increase in service calls in the past year compared to 2019. Doan said the department has not seen an alarming increase in criminal activity, but there is a yearly increase of calls for police services, 2020 being no exception.

“We did see an increase in overall volume with just over 14,000 events of police activity in 2019 and over 15,800 events this year,” he said. “That is still a staggering number for a medium size law enforcement agency.”

One notable call increase was in domestic calls — there were 612 in 2020 compared to 520 in 2019. Though that and an increase in overall calls existed, there were sizable drops in drug or alcohol related calls, which were 552 in 2019 versus 518 in 2020; collisions reports, which were 916 in 2019 and 715 in 2020; and also a decrease in traffic stops, from 2,625 in 2019 to 2,252 in 2020.

Doan said 2020 presented challenges to law enforcement across the country, but there has been an outpouring of support from the community, and staff have stepped up to the plate to tend to increased demand. A lot goes on behind the scenes when it comes to police work, Doan said, pointing out the work of 911 center employees and support staff.

“Low staffing and soaring call volumes have made it tough on the officers, but they have stepped up and made sure to answer the call to service every day,” he said. “Many take on additional shifts and loads of casework to make sure our citizens are not negatively impacted.”

Staffing shortages do have negative effects, though, he said. It overworks staff and “causes us to become a reactive department and not a proactive department.”

“To ensure the safety of our citizens, decrease crimes, decrease wrecks, do more community outreach programs, do more community policing we have to increase our staffing,” Doan said. “The police are constantly asked to do more with less, and it is the citizens that need us who will feel the impact. We must set our sights on being a 40-person department so we can meet the needs of the growing community.”

The struggle within various city departments, including the police department most of all, has been acknowledged by the city of Danville, as there have been recent compensation changes throughout the city and police department, including an effort to better align compensation with work experience for better retention. Doan said this has allowed the police department to attract some quality certified officers who require “very limited training.”

Doan said the department hopes to continue working with staff and the city on compensation issues because he said there is much more work to be done. For instance, increasing recruit officer starting pay is “a must” because it is currently $12.44 an hour, according to Doan.

He said retention and recruitment of quality officers is not just a local problem but a nationwide issue. It’s also competitive to find, train, and retain the best people for the position. Doan said certified officers, meaning those who have work experience and have graduated the police academy, are in high demand and often offer immediate assistance for an agency. He said the department is trying to become more appealing to certified officers. The department also recruits and hires non-certified officers, but there are extended wait times for academy dates and additional training.

The department is planning on hiring two recruits this month who are non-certified, but they aren’t expected to start working on their own until January 2022, when combining their projected academy dates and field training time, Doan said.

“We have a strong reputation of producing quality, well-trained officers at the Danville Police Department and they are often recruited to other agencies offering higher pay,” he said. “We cannot continue to be a training ground for other departments. We have a very family-oriented and encouraging atmosphere here at DPD and provide our officers with everything they need to be successful, such as quality training and equipment. If we can combine this with competitive wages, then there is no reason we should not be a top choice employer for those wanting to serve.”