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Opinion/Editorial: Funding deserved for VSP

Opinion/Editorial: Funding deserved for VSP

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State Sen. Bryce Reeves is proposing legislation to boost funding for the Virginia State Police by $43 million.

Gov. Ralph Northam has called for an increase of $18.6 million.

The VSP is badly understaffed, “with a vacancy rate approaching 27%” of sworn, front-line troopers, according to its superintendent, Col. Gary Settle.

Settle said his agency “can no longer carry out portions of our mission; our ability to respond to emergencies throughout the commonwealth is imperiled; and we cannot compete for applicants who reflect the diversity and culturally responsive values that Virginians deserve.”

A funding boost would allow the VSP to establish salaries that can compete with those being offered by peer organizations.

Reeves, a Spotsylvania Republican, described the VPS as “the standard bearer for professionalism in law enforcement in the commonwealth of Virginia.”

The Daily Progress frequently observes and interacts with law enforcement agencies of all types. We’d agree with Reeves on that statement.

In much of our local region are some very good police and sheriff’s departments — but not all parts of Virginia are so fortunate.

Reeves is right that a strong, steady and skilled State Police department sets a benchmark for other departments and can indirectly influence them to up their game.

More directly, the VSP assists local departments when needed — especially through its specialized tactical, underwater and canine teams.

“It pains me to see them underfunded and understaffed,” Reeves said.

The General Assembly will meet next month to redistribute $4.3 billion in federal stimulus funding.

Additionally, when the legislature convenes next year, it will have $2.6 billion in surplus money, accumulated from state revenue this past fiscal year, for use in the next biennial budget. The surplus is the result of savings from conservative state spending during the COVID shutdown, coupled with a stronger than anticipated economic rebound as businesses opened up again.

Whether dealing with immediately available federal aid or with next year’s plan to allocate the surplus, the governor and lawmakers have a huge number of needs to address.

The VSP is only one of those needs — but it’s a critical one.

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