Almost a third of Fairfax County's police force, more than 300, filled the auditorium in the Fairfax County Government Center Thursday to fight for pay raises.
The crowd was so large, it allowed for standing room only and overflowed into the halls outside the auditorium, where officers crowded around small monitors to watch representatives testify in front of the County Board of Supervisors.
"All these police officers that you see here, a lot of them haven't had raises in years," Sgt. Gregory Fried said.
Many of his classmates from the academy have moved on to other jobs, he added, "knowing that they would be able to raise and support their families and have a decent living."
Fairfax Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Scanlon told supervisors the stagnant salaries are hurting efforts to recruit new officers. There are 54 vacancies in the department, he said.
"We can't fill those seats because we don't have the competitive pay scales or competitive benefits package that other agencies can offer," Scanlon said.
Among those budgeted for a raise this year are county firefighters. They're getting a 3 percent bump in pay.
"The bottom line is that the firefighters are out of the competitive corridor, so that's being dealt with in this budget," Board Chairman Sharon Bulova explained.
She added that there's still money available to give some police positions a raise.
But Scanlon said that only helps the higher ranks, not the officers on the streets.
Scanlon said that should worry Fairfax County residents.
"The response times for calls for service in the county are going to increase, and we're not going to be able to provide the services that their constituents are asking for," he said.
As for Sgt. Fried, after 10 years with the department, he's looking at other options.
"I've actually tried to leave the agency and relocate, but I'm still here," he said.
Since Tuesday, many other county employees have made their case for higher pay in front of the supervisors.
The board will adopt their final budget in about two weeks.