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Police Morale Low, Union Chief Says

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"Guys are just fed up with it," Childress says. "There are rumors that a whole lot of people are getting ready to leave to go to Chesterfield and Henrico — maybe as many as 30 people. It's just been a whole lot of things building up over time."

Chief Monroe says he disagrees with Childress' conclusions and defends his policies. When he discovered that more than 65 percent of officers were off on weekends, while crime then was reaching "unacceptable levels," he says, "a change had to be made."

After the scheduling change, "a couple of very conscientious officers" — Childress not among them, Monroe says — told the chief they were unhappy with the policy. Monroe told them to work on an alternative schedule, which they soon will present to him. Also, he says, the mayor will propose a pay raise for police within the next month or so.

"I don't think that I'm ever going to be able to please every single individual in this department," Monroe says, but morale is not as dire as it seems.

Childress says he decided to speak up because he's worried the morale problems and the shortage of officers is a growing public safety concern. He recently e-mailed members of City Council to raise awareness.

In addition, Childress says he was ordered to lower the performance evaluations of two of his officers from "Exceptional" to "Successfully Meets Standards," because the department didn't want to give the officers the mandatory 4 percent increase in pay to which "Exceptional" officers are entitled. Instead, they got a 2.5 percent raise.

City Council President G. Manoli Loupassi dismisses complaints about the new scheduling policy as "the natural grumbling of the troops," and shift assignments are best left to the chief. "The police chief's got a job to do, and that's to put as many officers on the street as possible," Loupassi says. "And he's doing that the best way he knows how."

Pay compression has long been a serious problem for Richmond's police force, he says, for both veteran and rookie officers. The City Council tried, pre-Wilder, to institute a pay raise for officers, but some opposed it as unfair to other city employees.

Loupassi disagreed. "The police get shot at," he says, so they should be the city's first priority. "I'm optimistic that in the upcoming budget, Mayor Wilder's going to address this particular issue."

Childress says it may be too late. "In this administration, [we're told] if you don't like it go somewhere else," says Childress, who adds that many are doing just that. — Scott Bass and Melissa Scott Sinclair

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