Max Smith, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - Virginia State Police are trying to inch their way back to a full force after years of budget slashing caused a dip in the number of law enforcement officers.
Spokeswoman Corrine Geller says that as of earlier this month, the agency is 196 officers short of the 2,012 sworn officers it is authorized to employ.
Geller blames much of that on budget cuts over the last few years, but says things are heading in the right direction with 80 new troopers set to leave the academy on Mar. 2 and 100 more set to enroll Feb. 25.
On top of the 196 vacancies right now, a state police study has found that "beyond our existing strength…we need an additional 590 sworn people to really adequately provide service to the commonwealth," Geller says.
That would include providing coverage 24 hours a day to places that currently don't have it, like Rappahannock, Culpeper and Warren and Madison counties. Also, more investigators would be used to sort through mountains of forensic evidence in units like the high-tech crimes division.
"As you can imagine, digital forensic evidence is such a major and vital part of any investigation today," Geller says. "We have investigators that do nothing but just pore over people's laptops and various personal digital devices and whatever else they may use that could provide us with critical evidence in an investigation."
Governor Bob McDonnell's proposed budget would provide funding to fill 40 of the vacancies.
The agency is hiring right now. It takes about a year to go through the application and background check process, then another nine months at the academy to become a state trooper.
Geller says about 20 percent of the academy class typically drops out, or doesn't graduate.
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