HD19 - Report of the Public Safety Compensation Work Group (Chapter 1, 2021 SSII)

Executive Summary:

Chapter 1, 2021 Acts of Assembly, Special Session II directed the Governor to convene a work group to address the compensation structure for correctional officers at the Department of Corrections, deputy sheriffs within sheriffs’ departments, and regional jail officers. To address the requirements in Chapter 1, a workgroup was convened under the auspices of the Secretaries of Finance, Administration, and Public Safety and Homeland Security. As required, the work group included staff from the Department of Human Resource Management, the Compensation Board, the Department of Corrections, and the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. Representatives also attended from the Department State Police, the Department of Planning and Budget, the Virginia Sheriffs Association, the Virginia Association of Regional Jails, and the Virginia Law Enforcement Sheriffs.

Several common concerns and issues were identified by work group participants as factors that affect the ability of all public safety agencies to recruit and retain personnel. Like other state employees, pay for correctional officers and state troopers has increased in recent years but continues to be lower than the compensation provided by competitive employers. Of particular concern for constitutional officers at sheriffs’ offices and regional jails is the growing dependency on local salary supplements to account for regional variations in the cost of living and the impact of state budget reductions. Like all employees, state and local public safety personnel are impacted by salary compression, where pay increases for entry-level staff are not matched by proportional increases for senior staff. This compression of the salary scale hinders retention efforts. However, salary increases alone may not be sufficient to address current or future challenges, particularly if the pool of willing and qualified applicants is decreasing. Accordingly, a more comprehensive approach to planning for public safety personnel may be warranted, as part of a more holistic approach to addressing these essential positions.