Vienna police officer gets award for hiring ‘feat’ amid national staffing challenges

Sgt. James Sheeran is awarded by the Rotary Club of Vienna for his work hiring new officers (courtesy Vienna Police)

One of Vienna’s police officers recently got some kudos for giving the department a major staffing boost at a time when law enforcement is struggling with recruitment regionally and nationally.

Sgt. James Sheeran was named the Vienna Police Department’s “Employee of the Year” by the Rotary Club of Vienna, which presented its 2023 Rotarian M. Jane Seeman “Service Above Self” award to the sergeant at a banquet on April 19.

Bestowed annually to an officer who displays “motivation, commitment, and service to the community,” the award went to Sheeran this year after he hired 10 officers in two years — the equivalent of nearly a quarter of the VPD’s 41 sworn officer positions.

The department also employs 11 civilian staff members.

“Sgt. Sheeran’s hiring accomplishment is a feat that has not been achieved in the recent history of our police department,” the police department said in a press release on Friday (May 5).

According to the release, Sheeran was “managed to screen hundreds of applicants” during his two years working in the Criminal Investigations Section:

Sgt. Sheeran was assigned to the Vienna Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Section (CIS) for approximately 24 months. His duties included internal investigations, personnel hiring and investigator supervision. Sgt. Sheeran is described by his section commander as an exemplary employee. Always willing to lend a hand and never turns down a new assignment. Sgt. Sheeran approaches all his duties with enthusiasm, dedication, and professionalism.

The VPD now has just one vacancy, even though it has encountered the same hurdles with recruitment as other police departments, possibly “even more because we are a smaller police department,” Public Information Officer Juan Vasquez told FFXnow.

“Recruiting and hiring new officers is an extremely difficult and challenging task,” the department said. “The Vienna Police Department is located in the heart of a very large metropolitan area with numerous agencies actively and aggressively competing for law enforcement officers.”

Police departments actually reported an uptick in hiring during 2022 compared to 2019-2021, but those gains have been offset by increased retirements and resignations, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) found in a survey released April 1.

Among the agencies competing with Vienna is the Fairfax County Police Department, which has been in a “personnel emergency” since last summer. The FCPD welcomed 56 recruits to its academy last month — its largest class in over a decade — but as of early April, there were 206 vacant positions.

In a push to improve recruitment and retention, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is set to adopt a budget tomorrow (Tuesday) that will boost pay for police officers by an average of 12.8%.

The Town of Vienna’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, gives an additional $400,960 to the police. Though there aren’t any significant changes to compensation, anticipated initiatives include enhanced “recruiting efforts using social media.”

The town council will adopt the budget on May 15.

Read more on FFXnow…

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