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Police hiring bonuses needed to keep Fairfax Co. competitive, board chair says

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In Virginia, Fairfax County officials are moving to address shortages in police staffing with a hefty signing bonus for new recruits, while juggling concerns from current officers about long hours and pay parity.

Speaking to WTOP’s DMV Download podcast on Tuesday, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said a proposed hiring bonus of up to $15,000 would help the county stay competitive against other law enforcement agencies in seeking recruits.

The hiring incentive, which is up for a public hearing on Oct. 11, has led to concerns about a pay disparity with existing officers. If County Executive Bryan Hill moves forward with the new bonuses, McKay expects pay scales will have to be adjusted in a similar way to last year’s budget.

“We’ve been raising salaries, but officers who have been working two or three years might be making less than someone just coming in,” he said, “so we went back and mechanically fixed that compression issue in our pay scales. I think a similar thing will have to happen with this.”

McKay isn’t concerned about the feasibility of funding the higher police signing bonuses, given breathing room in the county’s budget.

“Because there are so many vacant positions in the county that were funded, we do have a balance remaining there they can use for signing bonuses to recruit new employees,” McKay told WTOP reporter and DMV Download co-host Megan Cloherty.

“This does not have a big fiscal impact on the county,” he said. “The county is very large, the budget several billion of dollars, and we’re talking about a very narrow amount of money for a very narrow number of people.”

Despite some Fairfax County officers being assigned to 12-hour shifts due to the staffing crisis, McKay said he isn’t concerned about mistakes being made but has been in contact with officers to monitor the impact of long hours.

“It’s something we’re watching very carefully. We’ve had mixed responses from our officers about it, but frankly, any time you make a change like that, you expect some blow back,” he said.

“What we have seen is no officers leaving as a result of that change … I verified that with (Police Chief Kevin Davis) this morning, and that’s important to me.”

In an emergency measure, the county board earlier this month voted to authorize signing bonuses, offering up to $15,000 for clinicians, nurses, emergency service workers and other essential workers.

At the time, Supervisor Pat Herrity said the incentives were necessary to attract prospective workers in fields “where we are losing recruits to surrounding jurisdictions.”