Arlington’s fire and police unions are poised to lose a battle to change the pay scale the county uses — one that union representatives say contributes to ongoing staffing shortages.
This year, the Arlington County Police Department has hired 29 officers and lost 52 officers, Arlington Coalition of Police (ACOP) President Randall Mason told the Arlington County Board in a meeting earlier this month. It will lose five more by February 2023.
“This is the worst staffing crisis we’ve had in 30 years,” Mason said. “Our overtime to make minimum staffing was at 7,000 hours in 2021. It’s on pace to break that this year. The year before that, it was 4,000 hours. We’re right on the verge of mandatory overtime.”
The attrition, due in part to burnout and low morale, has forced ACPD to scale back some services. Amid this trend, last summer the Arlington County Board voted to reinstate collective bargaining for the first time since the 1970s.
For ACOP and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2800, the vote meant a chance to renegotiate pay scale structures to keep officers from going to better-paying jurisdictions.
Currently, Arlington County uses an open-range system, which union reps say results in officers with less experience earning more than people of the same rank with more experience. In October, 204 out of 304 ACOP members were paid less than at least one person in their same rank with fewer years of service, Mason said.
“That’s a direct result of the open range system,” he said.
For this reason, ACOP and IAFF are asking for a step scale, which they say is used by most municipalities and more fairly rewards years of service. But this year, the unions and the county reached an impasse regarding this change, among others, and had to go to arbitration.
Unions asked the county to make the switch in one year — a pricy ask the county rejected due to inflation and high commercial vacancy rates putting pressure on its tax revenue and expenditures. ACOP estimates making the switch in one year for police would have cost the county $9 million.
“Just like the fire department, we shot too high,” Mason said. “[But] 66% of officers being paid in an unfair manner isn’t an aberration — it’s something that needs to be addressed.”
Arbiters sided with the county in both negotiations because making the change in one year would be financially unreasonable, but they did indicate their support for a step scale.
“Overall, the weight of the evidence supports the Union’s proposal to move to a step wage structure which will address the problem of salary compression and is in other comparable departments,” writes Samantha Tower, who was the arbiter for the negotiations with the fire department.
IAFF President Brian Lynch told the county Tower did not have the power to provide a middle-ground solution.
“She went out of her way to say there is a better path,” he said.
The Arlington County Board could make a decision on the public safety employee contracts next month. If members approve them as is, they would cement the current pay structures for three more years. The Board could also force county staff and unions to go back to the table and renegotiate.
That’s the path Lynch says he hopes the Board takes.
“With time, your support and the guidance that arbitrator provided… we can make the promise that collective bargaining holds for firefighters in the community we protect a priority we hope you join us in that effort,” he said.
The Arlington firefighters union says the county’s proposed 2022-23 budget underfunds the fire department and puts residents in unnecessary danger, but county officials dispute the characterization.
The union wants the budget to support having someone with Advanced Life Support training on each fire department vehicle, something that county officials say is not necessary. ALS providers are certified to treat critically ill patients with life-saving drugs or intravenous medicines, among other training that goes beyond basic emergency medical care, also called Basic Life Support.
Currently, Arlington has a mix of ALS and BLS medic units on duty at any given time.
The budget also does not include premium pay for the Swift Water Rescue Team to reflect the riskier work they do, while wages have stagnated for rank-and-file members, according to the union.
IAFF 2800, which represents more than 300 firefighters, proposes adding $8.5 million to the 2022-23 budget to address these issues.
Budgeting decisions regarding wages “have led to diminished emergency services at the risk of potential harm to the citizens, businesses and visitors of Arlington,” the union said in a letter to the Arlington County Board and County Manager Mark Schwartz. “It is with this in mind that we bring these issues to the forefront before it escalates to a point that causes unnecessary harm to the community we serve.”
The $8.5 million would provide a 7% raise to keep up with inflation, make firefighters whole for missed pay increases since 2018, provide premium pay for responders who took on more work due to labor shortages, and increase compensation for the Swift Water Rescue Team, IAFF says.
County Manager Mark Schwartz says the union’s account is inaccurate and the county has not been cutting costs.
“All County residents should know that there is no ‘unnecessarily hazardous situation’ and that each resident can rely on a strong and well-trained workforce to respond to their needs,” he said in response.
Specifically, ACFD has stepped up its medical care without “over-resourcing” every call through mobile diagnoses, on-site treatments and new technologies that give patients more options, he said, adding that “not every patient needs an Advanced Life Support provider.”
Schwartz says the Swift Water Rescue Team does not receive premium pay, but he is committed to adding compensation for the team in addition to funding that addresses stagnant wages.
Employee compensation is the chief focus of the 2022-23 budget, which is currently being hammered out. Schwartz proposes 6.5% salary increases for public safety employees and a $2.2 million increase for the fire department over the 2022 budget, according to a recent presentation.
Among other changes, the increase would fund the implementation of the Kelly Day, which will reduce each firefighter’s average work week from 56 to 50 hours, improving work-life balance and reducing attrition, the county says. The county hired nearly 40 additional firefighters over four years to instate the Kelly Day.
Today, the department is close to full staffing and is experiencing vacancies comparable to Arlington’s historical average, Schwartz said. ACFD loses about two employees a month, and there are currently 15 uniform vacancies.
“I hope that the historic investments we have made over the past four years in a reduced work week and exemplary practices will continue to attract the best staff in the nation,” he said.
The threat of job loss over vaccination status may have motivated some 104 permanent Arlington County employees to get the shot.
County employees have until next Tuesday (Feb. 1) to get the jab or obtain a medical or religious exemption, otherwise they go on unpaid leave for one month. If they obtain neither before Feb. 28, they lose their jobs.
Since mid-December, when ARLnow last reported on the upcoming deadline for employees, nearly 38% of unvaccinated employees have received the vaccine, according to Arlington Public Health Division spokesman Ryan Hudson.
With less than a week to before the deadline, 174 employees, or 5.5% of the county’s permanent workforce, remain unvaccinated — a number that includes people with religious and medical accommodations.
The uptick over the last 40 days brings the county’s employee vaccination rate to 94.5%, up from 91%, or 2,976 of 3,150 county employees.
Back in August, Arlington County mandated vaccines for all permanent county employees, requiring those who were unvaccinated to submit to weekly testing. A few months later, the county sharpened the teeth behind the mandate by setting the Feb. 28 deadline.
This step prompted a group of first responders and other county employees to launch a petition, asking the county for “more reciprocal ideas” for ensuring employee health and safety, such as continuing testing. Today, the petition has about 350 signatures.
Arlington County Board members re-endorsed the mandate during their regular meeting on Saturday, after a former Arlington firefighter took the podium during the public comment period to say not getting the shot is an “inexcusable dereliction of duty,” unless there’s a legitimate medical exemption.
“I don’t believe any public safety employee who refuses a vaccine at this time is doing anything other than defying the very essence of their job,” said retired firefighter Mike Staples.
He thanked the 90% of the fire department who’ve received the vaccine for “upholding the longstanding reputation we’ve built of demonstrating a selfless commitment to public safety.”
Staples said the firefighters who are holding out are “in the wrong line of work.”
Despite their controversy, workplace mandates have been shown to increase vaccination rates.
County Board members appeared unfazed by the potential loss of workers come Feb. 28, despite reports of ongoing and predicted workforce shortages among first responders and in other county departments.
“We are at this point talking about a relative few who have either not complied with getting the shots or have not qualified for a legitimate medical or religious exemption,” Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey said. “The good news is that is at such a high number there will be no negative or adverse impact on county service delivery with the implementation of this requirement. We do thank everyone doing their part to keep our community safe.”
A group of Arlington County first responders and staff from other departments are petitioning the county to reverse course on its vaccine mandate.
Those who elect not to get the vaccine risk losing their jobs come February, per the county’s updated vaccine policy, shared with ARLnow.
Arlington County mandated vaccines for all government employees back in August, requiring those who were unvaccinated to submit to weekly testing. Since then, the county added a deadline to its policy: unvaccinated employees have until Feb. 1, 2022 to get the vaccine or get a medical or religious exemption. Those without a vaccine or an exemption on Feb. 1 will be placed on leave, and if they obtain neither before Feb. 28, 2022, they lose their jobs.
Some 278 of 3,137 permanent county employees are unvaccinated, including an unknown number of religious or medical exemptions, according to Public Health Division spokesman Ryan Hudson.
Those requesting the county to change its policy are asking for “more reciprocal ideas” for ensuring employee health and safety. The petition, started by firefighter Sterling Montague, has garnered nearly 300 signatures, from employees and their friends and family.
“More people came out in the last week than I ever knew of who are in support of the guys who don’t want to get the vaccine,” Montague tells ARLnow, adding that the coalition represents different demographics and opinions, including those who are vaccinated but oppose mandates.
“We aren’t uniformly anything,” he said. “We are anti-mandate for lots of reasons… [and] we have a diverse group that includes African-Americans and Hispanics.”
The petition says the mandate disproportionately harms people of color and it’s unclear what recourse folks have if those forced to take the vaccine suffer side effects. Objections to the shot, meanwhile, include that it was designed for a previous version of the virus and only protects for a short period of time and wanes, requiring an unknown number of additional boosters.
The county maintains that vaccines are safe and the best protection against COVID-19 — something echoed by the vast majority of doctors and public health professionals.
Arlington Public Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese said mandates work, linking rising vaccination rates among those older than 18 to various mandates during a County Board recessed meeting on Tuesday.
Rather than terminate up to 10% of employees — while the county faces ongoing and predicted workforce shortages among first responders and in other county departments — the petition suggests affordable, at-work tests for unvaccinated folks and those who report to work with symptoms while counting previous COVID-19 cases towards immunization.
Testing isn’t cheap. For the last three weeks, that testing has cost the county about $7,300 per week, but it’s 100% reimbursed under the White House’s COVID-19 Disaster Declaration, Hudson said.
Those opposed to the mandate say these temporary solutions are important as the pandemic and the vaccines evolve and because they’re worried few who applied will be granted religious and medical exemptions.
“It’s like they’re trying to fire us before things change,” Montague said. “If, in a year, this is the same, you’d have a year more credibility to fire us, but it doesn’t make sense to fire us as soon as possible.” Read More
Arlington’s planning department is stretched too thin and cannot take on a bigger workload, its director told the County Board this week.
At full strength, the 30-person staff of the Department of Community, Planning and Housing Development shepherds a myriad development projects and permit applications through county processes, from cafés seeking to renew their outdoor dining permits to developers planning large-scale projects. It also helps to produce the lengthy planning documents that guide the future development of neighborhoods.
Right now, with a flurry of activity underway in the wake of the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2, seven major long-range planning studies are in process. The department anticipates overseeing 10 major development applications while working through more than 400 minor development and administrative approvals, CPHD Director Anthony Fusarelli, Jr. told the Planning Commission and the County Board during a joint meeting.
“To have this number of ongoing planning efforts and engagements at one time… truly represents a substantial volume of ongoing work being managed by the division, also requiring time energy and resources by other county staff and the community,” Fusarelli said during his presentation. “Collectively, these ongoing efforts command a significant amount of staff resources, leaving little if any capacity to add new work and initiate additional projects at this time.”
Once major projects are done or big milestones reached, he said staff will be freed up to start new initiatives or address new county priorities.
While deferential to the hard work of CPHD, Planning Commission and County Board members had a few ideas for work CPHD should undertake in the near future, from changing how the county evaluates the environmental impact of developments to not losing sight of deferred projects such as implementing the plan to enliven Four Mile Run Valley.
One potential change could save CPHD time and resources, argued Planning Commission Chair James Lantelme. Currently, renovations to “non-conforming” duplexes, townhouses and low-rise multifamily buildings go through the same lengthy approval process used for major developments, known as Site Plan Review. He suggested instead that these folks, who want relief from zoning regulations, go through the Board of Zoning Appeals, which hears similar requests from those on single-family residential lots.
“I’m assuming we’re going to be seeing more of these small things coming before us, and we think we really need to deal with this,” Lantelme said. “It’s a waste of the Planning Commission’s time, it’s a waste of staff time. We have a huge amount of consequential work, and to have a Site Plan for one duplex… there’s no value added by doing that. It’s not appropriate, and in fact, it’s contrary to what our comprehensive plan is advocating for, for affordable housing — for housing period — and for equity.”
It’s likely on his mind because the commission oversaw one such project, a request to build out the deck of a townhouse, which recently received County Board approval, and members are now reviewing another, a duplex renovation proposed by the owner. The approvals feature televised, public meetings and detailed presentations created by planning staffers.
You're forgiven if, looking at this discussion list, you thought this was a 100-unit brand new residential building.
— Stephen Repetski (@srepetsk) September 17, 2021
The townhome was in a “legacy district” used for a few developments in the 1970s, while duplex sits on a smaller-than-standard lot that had been grandfathered into a zoning district. Both owners proposed increasing the footprint of their home, tipping them into the Site Plan Review path, which requires lawyers, experts, and Planning Commission and County Board approvals.
“If it was a McMansion, it would go through BZA,” Lantelme said. “You have to go through more time, expense and uncertainty in order to have a duplex, which is what we want in these areas… It would really save us time money and staff resources if we could get this addressed.”
An Arlington County employee discovered “KKK” scrawled on a pillar in the parking garage below the county government’s Courthouse headquarters last week.
The employee, who is Black, found the message in the garage for the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center (2100 Clarendon Blvd) and reported the incident on Thursday morning to County Board members, County Manager Mark Schwartz, Chief Race and Equity Officer Samia Byrd and the Arlington branch of the NAACP, according to the local NAACP. The employee filed a police report yesterday (Monday).
The Arlington NAACP shared an excerpt from the email chain between the employee and the county that it said encapsulates how the incident harms more than just the individual who found it.
“It seems because I reported it, and because I happen to be Black, I am seen as a single victim,” the employee wrote to the county in an email, according to the NAACP. “I do not see myself in this way.”
In a statement to ARLnow, County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti condemned the message.
“It’s unfortunate and unacceptable to see racist graffiti anywhere in our community, let alone in our own parking garage,” de Ferranti said. “This garage is open to the public at all times and frequented by those using the businesses throughout the Courthouse neighborhood.”
Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services and property owner JBG Smith took steps to remove the writing from the pillar, he said.
“Our thanks go to the individual who reported it to us,” he added. “ACPD is also investigating, and we will have a more extensive response regarding the steps we have, are, and will be taking over the coming days.”
In a statement, the Arlington branch of the NAACP took a stronger stance, saying any county employee who parked in that garage was “victimized” by the message and emphasizing that this incident is not “graffiti.”
“Speech expressing hatred of a particular group of people is defined as ‘hate speech’ and is not ‘graffiti,'” the organization said. “The Arlington Branch NAACP condemns any form of hate speech and stands with the Black employees and any employee or citizen who reports hate speech.”
The NAACP asked county leadership to send a message to the county workforce that hate speech will not be tolerated anywhere.
“However, sadly, the County missed the opportunities to get in front of this and, as of Monday evening, four days later, still had not addressed these concerns with its employees,” it said.
Hateful messages have popped up elsewhere in Arlington in recent years.
“It’s OK to be white” was sprayed over a church’s racial justice sign last summer. “Heil Trump,” “KKK” and two swastikas were found on a dumpster two years ago — the same year racial and gender slurs were found on a building that serves people with developmental delays.
The full statement from the NAACP is below.
Several senior Arlington County employees left the Saturday, Jan. 25, Arlington County Board meeting with renewed contracts and some notable pay bumps.
The County Manager, County Attorney, County Auditor and Clerk to the County Board all had their contracts unanimously approved in a 5-0 vote with no discussion.
County Manager Mark Schwartz got a 4.5% raise to $282,489 annually. It’s a little less than his neighbor, Alexandria City Manager Mark Jinks, who earns $288,000 annually, according to the Alexandria Gazette Packet. On the other hand, it’s a little more than the $268,000 salary for Bryan Hill, who has the equivalent position in Fairfax County.
This is also the first time Schwartz’s salary has surpassed his predecessor, Barbara Donnellan, whose salary was $270,000 annually by the end of her five-year tenure. Schwartz became County Manager in 2015.
County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac, meanwhile, got a 3.5% raise to $261,933 per year — more than the $243,812 annual salary paid to Alexandria City Attorney Joanna Anderson.
County Auditor Christopher Horton got a 3.25% raise to $147,493 per year. Horton became the county auditor in 2016 and is the County’s second auditor. The first left the job after less than seven months.
Kendra Jacobs, Clerk to the County Board, had the biggest raise at 6.75%, increasing her salary to $115,749. Jacobs was appointed to the role in 2018.
The top county employees also received a raise last year; for all but Horton the raise was higher this year.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
Though the opening of the ever-controversial Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center is still a ways off, county officials are gearing up to hire two new staffers set to work at the facility.
County Manager Mark Schwartz set aside $110,000 for the newly created positions as part of his proposed budget for fiscal year 2020. He forwarded along his first draft of the new spending plan to the County Board late last week.
Schwartz is recommending that the Board act now to start the recruitment and hiring process for a general manager and a maintenance technician for the facility, currently expected to open sometime in “early 2021.”
“Hiring these two positions prior to the facility opening will allow the Department of Parks and Recreation to develop standard operating procedures; ensure mastery of all building systems, including specialized aquatics equipment; procure inventory; and develop staff training plans,” Schwartz wrote in a message attached to the budget proposal.
The manager expects that the county will be able to afford the new hires largely through some staff reductions elsewhere across the department. In all, Schwartz is recommending $5.2 million in cuts in his budget, affecting 29 full-time positions and one-part time position across the county government. He’s also proposing a tax hike to meet some of the county’s growing expenses, though the Board opted to explore an even larger tax increase than he originally recommended.
Construction has continued apace on the $60 million Long Bridge project ever since it finally broke ground last summer, following years of debate over its scope and cost. Schwartz added in his budget proposal that he “remains committed” to somehow striking a naming rights deal for the facility to defray some of its costs — the Board decided last year to hire a marketing firm to help the county search for potential sponsors.
“As the project moves closer to completion, we remain optimistic that our efforts will be successful,” Schwartz wrote.
County officials also expect to finalize a fee structure for anyone hoping to use the facility’s pools and gym as part of the upcoming budget process. A working group on the subject recently wrapped up its deliberations and will deliver a proposal with potential fees to the Board in the coming weeks.
According to a Jan. 31 presentation from the group, daily passes for county residents would range from $9 for adults to $5 for children. An annual pass for adults would cost $630 and $350 for kids.
Non-residents would pay a 25 percent premium on daily passes and a 30 percent premium on all other passes, under the working group’s proposal.
Arlington leaders are doling out raises for County Manager Mark Schwartz and several other senior county employees.
The County Board signed off on modest pay hikes for Schwartz, County Attorney Steve MacIsaac, County Auditor Chris Horton and County Board Clerk Kendra Jacobs at its meeting Tuesday (Jan. 29).
Each one scored 3.25 percent pay bumps on their previous contracts, matching raises the Board handed out last year to the group. All four report directly to county lawmakers.
Schwartz, the top executive in the county government, now stands to pull in just under $262,000 next year. This raise marks the third one he’s earned from the Board since he was hired as permanent county manager in 2016, when he started out with an annual salary of $245,000. His predecessor as manager, Barbara Donnellan, reached a top salary of about $270,000 a year by the end of her five-year tenure.
MacIsaac now pulls in about $253,000 per year, his tenth salary bump since taking over as the county’s top lawyer in 2000. Horton now makes nearly $143,000, earning his second raise since joining the county in 2016.
Jacobs now makes just over $108,000 annually, with the pay bump coming just a few months after the Board hired her to manage meeting materials this past July.
The good news for these county employees, most of whom rank among the highest-paid in the county workforce, comes as Schwartz is warning of some potential bad news for other county workers.
He’s already ordered a hiring “slowdown” to cope with the county’s dire fiscal picture, and has warned layoffs could be in the forecast (alongside tax increases and service cuts) to close a large budget gap in the new fiscal year.
Police and fire officials flooded last night’s (April 3) budget hearing to speak out against stagnant wages.
Public safety personnel say that police and fire wages are too low to allow them to live in Arlington long-term. Many are joining up, but soon realizing that their pay is insufficient to live in the county and raise a family.
The starting salary for a firefighter in Arlington is $48,000, while an entry-level police officer makes just under $53,000, according to organizers of last night’s demonstration.
A recent study found that single Arlingtonians can live comfortably on just over $56,000 a year; a couple with two children can live comfortably with just under $114,000 per year.
The proposed 2019 budget includes a four percent raise for ACFD but only a two-and-a-half percent raise for ACPD.
A “strategic restructuring” is in the works at the Arlington County Police Department, as its functional strength falls well below its authorized force. Recruiting has been a challenge, officials say.
Matthew Martin, the Arlington Police Beneficiary Association president, said that the department currently operating with 44 officers below full strength. That’s about two full patrol squads, according to the association.
‘Your police department is in trouble,” said Martin. “We can’t recruit and retain the high-quality officers that we need.”
The high turnover itself is a financial problem, as the department must then pay for recruiting and training the short-time officers, forcing the county to advertise job opportunities on billboards as far away as suburban Pittsburgh.
Ashley Savage, the police department spokeswoman, told the Tribune-Review that the billboard campaign “eventually will cover territory from Youngstown, Ohio, to Cleveland and from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg.”
Matt Quinn, a financial crimes unit detective who has been on the force for 12 years, said that since there are not enough officers for core services it’s hard even for those who don’t leave the department to move up.
“We have to focus on our core services, which is patrol, which means we have to make sure that that’s taken care of before people start looking at the detective bureau or other assignments within the bureau,” Quinn said.
Arlington County will not raise property tax rates this year, but fees are set to rise for several county services and amenities while other programs are seeing their budgets cut.
IAFF Local 2800, which represents Arlington’s professional firefighters and paramedics, noted that ACFD is paid as much as 20 percent less than their nearby counterparts.
So even if the demands are met, and a four percent increase is achieved, it’s just a start in the eyes of several fire and police officials.
“I think it’s a start for the department as a whole… but definitely over the next couple years we have to work at compressing the pay scale and increasing the starting pay to attract more good candidates,” Quinn explained, saying it would be a good start in a multi-year process.
4% is a start to closing a huge gap, but Arlington County needs a multi-year compensation plan for public safety. #ACFD is over 20% behind the DMV. https://t.co/vcIMKiqtXb
— IAFF Local 2800 (@IAFF2800) March 10, 2018
The County Board room, at capacity, was closed off shortly after opening as dozens of people — many in support of other causes, like nixing a proposed cut for Arlington Independent Media — poured in. The overflow crowd was allowed to watch and listen from the hall.
“We brought the fire department here, I think we’ll be fine,” one officer joked after the room was instructed to squeeze in to fit more people in the seats.
We are not asking to be number one…we just want to be comparable to the DMV. Last market adjustment was 5 years ago…and in this time we have fallen 21% below the market. #ACFD #ACPD #FairPayforPublicSafety https://t.co/D6L5Ht9N1F
— IAFF Local 2800 (@IAFF2800) April 4, 2018
The Arlington County Police Department is planning a “strategic restructuring” as a wave of retirements and departures leaves significant gaps in its staffing.
Services could be reduced as the department’s functional strength falls to a projected 50 officers below its authorized force of 370, according to an internal memo sent by police chief M. Jay Farr and obtained by ARLnow.com.
The Arlington Police Beneficiary Association, an employee organization representing Arlington officers that is advocating for higher police compensation in the county’s current budget process, said the “historic understaffing” is due to “sub-par pay.”
ACPD's usual attrition rate is about 6.5% of authorized strength per year. This fiscal year it is already 8.4%…with more than four months to go! Why are so many people leaving? #ACPD #ACFD
— Arlington Police Beneficiary Association (@ArlPoliceAssoc) February 21, 2018
ACPD is currently 45 officers below full operational strength. That's nearly two full Patrol squads! When you're that understaffed, services the community wants will have to be cut. #ACPD #ACFD
— Arlington Police Beneficiary Association (@ArlPoliceAssoc) February 24, 2018
In the past 4 1/2 years, as ACPD has been trying to hire additional officers, the Department is actually DOWN a total of 12 officers. You can't recruit/retain high-quality officers with sub-par pay. #ACPD #ACFD
— Arlington Police Beneficiary Association (@ArlPoliceAssoc) February 22, 2018
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed budget includes a 2.5 percent pay raise for rank-and-file officers, on top of pay hikes for all county employees. The raise does not apply to the department’s command staff. The County Board voted over the weekend against a property tax rate increase, meaning that any additional money for the department beyond Schwartz’s recommendation will likely result in reductions elsewhere in the budget.
The police department is actively recruiting to try to fill staffing holes, but faces competition from other D.C. area local police departments as well as federal law enforcement agencies that often have higher levels of pay. Asked about the numbers, ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said the total staffing level at the department is a bit higher than the functional staffing level.
“The Arlington County Police Department has an authorized staffing of 370 officers and a current strength of 346 officers,” she told ARLnow.com. “Our current strength includes recruits currently at the academy as well as officers on light duty so our functional staffing is a little lower.”
A table showing retirements and non-retirement departures from the police department, as provided by a county spokeswoman, shows a sharp uptick in 2017.
In a statement, Savage said the planned restructuring will “maximize our available resources.”
Our goals and objectives as a department have not changed, nor has our commitment to providing professional law enforcement services to the residents, visitors and businesses of Arlington County. However, our methods of achieving these goals must adapt to our current staffing challenges. To maximize our available resources, we will be completing a strategic restructuring of the police department. This will be accomplished by our command staff collaborating with the entirety of the police department and devising a staffing plan jointly. Our staffing and structure will focus on prioritizing core services and ensuring the services we are able to provide are effective and efficient. The ultimate goal is to design a police department reflective of our current staffing levels, limit the workload strain on officers by focusing on core services and promote a balanced work/life atmosphere. Our plan will also be forward looking to support growth as staffing improves. It is anticipated that the restructuring will be complete by late spring and additional information will be available at that time.
“Great work happens throughout this agency on a daily basis and this I am confident this will continue despite our current staffing challenges,” Chief Farr said in a statement issued to ARLnow.com. “The strategic restructure will provide us with an opportunity to maximize our resources by building a police department reflective of our current staffing levels while supporting our mission to reduce the incidence of crime and improve the quality of life in Arlington County.”
In the memo, below, Farr says the police department will be reevaluating its ability to provide support for special events in the county as part of the restructuring process.
The Arlington County Fire Department, meanwhile, is facing similar pressures. Fire department personnel are slated to receive an extra 4 percent bump in pay over the standard county employee raise in Schwartz’s budget, but the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association says even that might not be enough to fill gaps in staffing.
Arlington County will never be an "employer of choice" as advertised when their compensation for public safety is at the bottom of the DMV. #ACFD #ACPD #ArlingtonVA
— IAFF Local 2800 (@IAFF2800) February 21, 2018
With Fairfax's 4.5% market adjustment, #ACFD will be 17.5% behind. How can Arlington County firefighters not feel devalued?
We are not asking to be at the top…just asking for comparable pay for public safety. @ARLnowDOTcom
— IAFF Local 2800 (@IAFF2800) February 22, 2018
The full memo about restructuring from Chief Farr, after the jump.