Loss of police force possible

Published 8:18 pm Thursday, September 2, 2021

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The towns of Victoria and Kenbridge are both experiencing a loss of police officers, but for Victoria, the situation is grim.

“If a department cannot be staffed, then other means of law enforcement may need to be investigated,” Victoria Town Manager Rodney Newton said. “Finding personnel to fill the position is a critical need for the town.”

Newton said the town desires to maintain a police department, but it is difficult to compete with other law enforcement agencies, especially larger jurisdictions, or the state police.

Currently, both towns have a vacancy for a police officer.

According to Newton, Victoria currently employs three full-time employees and one part-time employee.

“About four years ago, the department downsized from five to four employees,” Newton said. “Victoria, like most other municipalities, loses officers primarily for better pay or benefits.” Newton said the applicant pool for certified police officers is minimal as new hires with no experience must be trained.

According to Newton, an individual hired with no experience or certification is required to attend a police academy and be certified. This could take anywhere from 12 to 18 months.

At the Aug. 10 town council meeting, Newton informed council members that the town faces losing another police officer.

Newton recommended to council a new rotating three-week schedule providing law enforcement coverage in 10-hour shifts. “This is our last chance to keep a police department in the Town of Victoria,” Newton said. “If we can’t staff a police department, this will fall to the county law enforcement.”

Kenbridge Town Manager Tony Matthews said his town’s police force is based on a per capita basis.

Currently, Kenbridge has four full-time officers and one part-time officer, but it has had more in the past.

Matthews said most officers have left for larger municipalities and higher salaries.

“We need for people to understand that the census reports and filings directly affect all matters of government and money received for programs,” Matthews said. “When people don’t fill out their census on paper, it looks like we don’t have any citizens living in town. This directly affects the amount of money, programs for law enforcement, schools, roads, business loans and many, many other benefits. In other words, why should Kenbridge or any other small town qualify for these benefits when it looks like we don’t have any people who live here?”