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Waynesboro Police Department Short-Staffed

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WAYNESBORO, Va. (WVIR) -

The Waynesboro Police Department is short 11 officers, and the staff continues to dwindle.

Police Chief Mike Wilhelm said, “I have five in the academy, five positions that are still frozen by the city and one that I can fill at any time.”

Wilhelm says they've lost 34 in the last five years, mostly to Augusta and Albemarle counties. Many officers begin their careers in Waynesboro, which pays the $60,000 price tag to train each officer, and then many leave.

“You get somebody new that finishes up their three-year contract and they can go to another agency and make $6,000 or $8,000 more a year and get a take home car,” Wilhelm said.

But there are compression issues too. “You have officers with less time and less experience making more than officers with more time and more experience,” Wilhelm said.

City Councilor and Vice Mayor of Waynesboro Tim Williams says it's time that the council does the right thing. “I see no advantage to continuing to train new officers for other localities,” he said.

But Williams says he couldn't get support when he wanted to fund Waynesboro PD sergeants.

“To bring them up to comparable pay with other localities would have only required 0.016 percent of just our reserves, not our operating budget, and I could not get two other council members to support me,” Williams said.

Councilor Jeff Freeman says he doesn't support using reserves. He says the council has other things on its mind as well, such as increasing stormwater fees. But he does say public safety comes first, and that keeping officers in the city would be worth a tax increase.

Wilhelm says it's not just a Police Department issue; fire and rescue agencies are experiencing the same problems.

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