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Police resignations highlight small-town department issues

By Lyndsey Price, lprice@wcyb.com
Published On: Jul 10 2014 05:05:47 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 10 2014 05:41:01 PM CDT

The Damascus Police Department is left with just two officers after their police chief and another officer resigned.

The Damascus Police Department is left with just two officers after their police chief and another officer resigned.

Chief Bill Nunley and another officer turned in their resignation Wednesday night. Both men cited lack of support from the town council and mayor.

We spoke with the Mayor of Damascus and the Chief of Police in Chilhowie, which are two similar-size departments. Both say it's difficult for small departments to compete with bigger ones like the sheriff's office or Virginia State Police.   

The resignation of Damascus Police Chief Bill Nunley and another officer is leaving the town looking to fill open positions quickly.

Now the town has two officers protecting the streets. "Its unfortunate that they chose to do it in this manner. They turned in their resignation then immediately went on burning their vacation days and sick days," says Jack McCrady.

Damascus Town Mayor Jack McCrady says he was disappointed when he heard about the two officers leaving, but as we found out, turnover in a small town department isn't unusual. "A lot of these officers are young. There's not enough excitement and they are confined. Like Damascus, it's eight-tenths of a square mile, so it's not very difficult to ride over all the streets in an hour."

Damascus isn't the only department faced with these issues. Just down the interstate in Chilhowie, Police Chief Steve Price says it's hard for small departments to compete with sheriff's offices and the Virginia State Police. "The officers enjoy working here for the large part we lose those people because the larger departments pay more and offer more opportunities for advancement," he said.

We found out when officers do leave, it's difficult to find ones interested, especially those who already have the training they'll need. "I advertised for two weeks and I received approximately seven applications. Of those seven only two were certified officers in Virginia," adds Price.

Chief Price says if the officers have to go to the academy, it leaves a department short-handed. "The academy they must attend is 18 weeks. 18 weeks is a long time to be down an officer when you only have a six-person police department," he said.

And it puts a strain on expenses. "Within a small town we have a small budget, and you have limited sources of revenue to fund that budget," says Price.

Meanwhile, Mayor McCrady is hoping to get a quick and more permanent solution for their department.

McCrady says Washington County Virginia Sheriff Fred Newman has offered to help the town's two officers until they can get more help.

He says they've already started looking to fill the positions.