Alexandria Mayor warns fix for police short-staffing won’t be quick

Alexandria will be hiring more police officers, but Mayor Justin Wilson warned the fix to staffing challenges won’t be quick.

The Alexandria Police Department is facing a chronic short-staffing issue that led to Police Chief Don Hayes announcing last month that it would be scaling back its community services.

As part of a monthly newsletter, Wilson said the city will be hiring more police officers but said the process won’t be swift.

“The ‘fix’ to our Police staffing challenges will not be quick,” Wilson said. “Hiring, training and releasing a new police officer to the streets is a time-consuming process. While we have made adjustments to pay and compensation, more remains to be done to ensure competitiveness in a hyper-competitive market for new police officers, particularly at a time where many jurisdictions are struggling to attract people to policing.”

The City Council approved 13 additional full time employees to the police budget, including the creation of a new Weapons Violation Task Force and the expansion of the city’s co-response program to assist people experiencing a behavioral crisis, which can stem from mental health problems.

The staffing crisis in the Alexandria Police Department also comes as the city has seen an uptick in some crimes, such as burglaries and aggravated assaults, though other crimes such as larcenies and auto thefts went down. The city has seen four homicides this year.

“In 2021, we saw an overall decrease in Part 1 crime, as our community recovered from the pandemic,” Wilson wrote. “This recovery came as the City was being served with the fewest number of police officers on the streets of our community in recent memory. That our community got safer during this challenging time for staffing in the Alexandria Police Department, speaks volumes about the professionalism, commitment and dedication of those who serve our City.”