Recruiting expo draws people in search to fill Virginia Beach Police Department’s ranks

Police Officer S.D. Simmons III discusses aspects of police work and training with Ashley Newcomer, center, and his father, Brian Newcomer, at left, during a recruiting expo at the Law Enforcement Training Academy on Saturday, Jan. 28. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

VIRGINIA BEACH — During a recent expo at the Law Enforcement Training Academy, Officer S.D. Simmons III from the city’s Third Precinct stood in a hallway to tell 23-year-old Ashley Newcomer of Ocean Lakes what it’s like doing police work.

They talked about the academy, how the academics, training, physical fitness and more improve and prepare you.

“They don’t want anyone to fail,” Simmons said. “They’re going to push you to the max.”

“They want the best,” said Newcomer, who attended the expo with his father, Brian Newcomer.

What is taught in the academy applies directly to the street, Simmons said, speaking from his own experience. “It added up.”

The department hopes applications to join the force will do the same. More than 100 people may pursue work with the city police department following the recruiting expo on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the training academy. 

There were demonstrations, shows of defensive tactics, displays, talks and simple one-on-one time to speak with officers about the work they do.  And part of the expo was in a computer lab, where attendees started the application process right then and there.

During a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 24, Chief Jim Cervera said the department is working to increase its recruiting, including efforts to make demographics of the department better match those of the city.

In an interview that afternoon, Deputy Chief Tony Zucaro listed qualities that help an officer succeed — “level headed, even tempered, compassionate, analytical thinker, problem solver, self-driven … 

“They’re out there on the front line engaging the community.”

“We’re looking,” police Capt. Kenny Miller said during the expo. “We want you.”

Miller, one of the department’s command duty officers, has 35 years service in law enforcement. He hopes potential officers are energetic, care about community and want to both help people and create positive change.

“There’s still more work to do,” he said. “There’s still more challenges. This is a great city. We’re trying to grab more people and make them change agents.”

Police Capt. Todd Jones said the event had strong attendance and interest, and the department hopes to build upon a class of recruits in the academy now – which should graduate 45 people into the ranks of the department’s 800 sworn officers.

“We always have a deficit greater than what the academy can fill,” he said. 

When an officer leaves, it takes about 15 months to fill that position.

Sgt. William Gervin, the sergeant over selection and recruiting, became a police officer after being inspired by his uncle, a police officer. Law enforcement is a noble, viable profession, he said. It’s a message he and others try to communicate to people who may join them in that work.

“One of the best ways to serve your community, I believe, is in this uniform,” Gervin said. “I think if anyone has a heart for service, they can get that feel here.”

Jerome Hamlette, 30, a sheriff’s deputy in Chesapeake, attended the expo. He’s pursing work as a police officer for career advancement and also to work more closely with citizens.

“I want to be face to face, working with the community,” he said.

He said the expo was very informative.

“It increased my interest a lot more,” Hamlette said, noting that he was impressed with the amount of training Virginia Beach provides its personnel from day one. There’s another appealing aspect to working here.

“I love Virginia Beach.” 

Jerome Hamlette

For information about joining the department, visit or call (757) 385-6354.

© 2017 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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