CPD Acting Chief Tito Durrette responds to 2021 Annual Report

Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 7:58 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Charlottesville’s acting Police Chief say he has a plan to reduce crime. A big part of that is more mental health resources and increased funding for police salaries.

“The city’s been fractured, the city’s been damaged and so what we have to do is, we got to start all over,” CPD Acting Chief Tito Durrette said.

Durrette says that fracturing goes back to 2017 and only got worse in 2020. Starting over, will have to start with looking at the statistics.

CPD’s 2021 Annual Report shows a 22.6% percent increase in crimes against persons between 2020 and 2021. Another glaring data point: Black people made up 56% of arrests in both 2020 and 2021 but make up less than 20 percent of the city’s population. Durrette says it boils down to a lack of mental health services in the city.

“I think people have gotten frustrated,” Durrette said. “They don’t like give half services, wraparound services when you’re in a crisis.”

He alludes to that frustration coming from the pandemic, including job loss and people losing their homes. He says in order to prevent repeat crimes, Charlottesville needs more mental health opportunities.

It’s not just a lack of services, though. The acting Chief says it’s a lack of funding for Charlottesville’s salaries. This impacts his staff.

“You have an officer making 46 now and you can go make something at 52, 53 that’s simple economy as anybody would go to a better paying job,” Durrette said. “So I have to foster pride here.”

Durrette notes those higher salaries come from even just the surrounding counties. He says places like Greene County, Fluvanna County and the University of Virginia Police Department make more, which is appealing to people who may live in the Charlottesville area. He says he also loses team members to the County, which offers a pay step.

He also says there’s a lag from when new members are recruited to when they can actually start the job. Being in the academy takes time, so there’s not an immediate fix for fresh hires, unless they are coming from experience already-- which is less likely with the lower salary in Charlottesville.

He says it’s even harder to fill the current holes in the department because he’s looking for a specific kind of officer.

“I’m not going to hire just to feel these numbers, because you got to you’re setting yourself up for failure because you’re gonna get a bad batch,” Durrette said. “So I will work short staffed to make sure we have the right people out there, while I’m sitting in this seat.”

The chief says that will take time. He has a “five year plan” to turn things around, focusing on what he calls “community engagement.”

He says that could be something as simple as a fish fry, ice cream with a cop, walking downtown to say hello-- anything to have others trust the police force in the area again.

He also wants to work with the city to get a competitive pay for officers.

While many may be leaving CPD, Durrette says he is here to stay. His title is temporary for now, but he wants it to be longer.

“I’m going to be here as long as they allow me to be,” Durrette said. “I grew up in the city. I’ve worked here for 31 years.”

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