CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia State Police has 40 vacancies and Col. Jan Cahill, West Virginia State Police (WVSP) Superintendent believes a larger number may be on the way as recruiting and retention have slowed.

Cahill appeared in front of the state House Finance committee last week with a budget presentation on the $96.6 million FY 2023 budget. Cahill asked lawmakers to consider an increase for locality pay for troopers in the eastern panhandle. He said that may help with recruiting and retention.

The superintendent said WVSP is facing the same issues as many law enforcement department, saying “there is not the calling for public service there used to be.”

“I know you hear about the labor shortage all the time with doctors, nurses, EMTs, teachers, social workers. The state police, we are not immune to that either. It’s our number one challenge, is recruitment and retention,” Cahill said.

Cahill said there are currently 660 troopers in the force and the 40 vacanies are even with a new class beginning recently. He said if WVSP wanted 24/7 coverage in all areas, between 750 and 800 troopers would be needed.

The superintendent told lawmakers in the meeting that WVSP has a hard time recruiting to the state’s busiest attachment — Martinsburg. He said there are 22 people assigned in Martinsburg and 41 people overall in Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

63rd District Delegate John Hardy is working toward getting a boost in pay for area law enforcement:

“A state trooper that’s working in Berkeley or Jefferson County, a new trooper can go to the DHHR and receive assistance, and to me that’s pretty sad,” Hardy said.

61st District Delegate Jason Barrett of Berkeley County, who supports locality pay, said WVSP and other state agencies are working on the structure for how locality pay would be set up.

“Being able to attract troopers in the Eastern Panhandle is incredibly difficult,” Barrett said. “I think that’s why we’ve heard the urgency from Colonel Cahill. But really, we have the same issue when it comes to teachers and all state employees. So I’m going to be supportive and remain supportive of locality pay for all our state employees.”

Barrett says the cost of living is higher in his area than most parts of the state and locality pay makes sense — for all state workers.