Police Chief Galen Carroll wants to offer $15,000 hiring bonuses to entice experienced officers from other agencies to work at the Modesto Police Department as part of the city’s effort to increase the department’s staffing and experience.
The City Council on Tuesday will consider approving this proposal.
This comes after the council on Aug. 3 approved a labor agreement with the Modesto Police Officers Association that called for police officers and detectives to receive pay raises of as much as 11.5 percent starting in January and over 2 1/2 years as well as other increases that eventually will cost the city’s general fund budget as much as $2.44 million annually. City officials said the increases were needed because Modesto still faces challenges in hiring and keeping officers and in offering competitive pay.
The base salary for officers is $65,499 to $79,615, according to information on the city’s website. That does not include overtime, incentive pay and benefits.
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The proposal calls for paying an experienced – or lateral – officer $10,000 when he or she is hired and $5,000 upon the officer’s fifth anniversary with the Police Department. Officers who leave before five years would pay back a prorated amount of the $10,000.
The Police Department hopes to hire 15 officers with this incentive.
Carroll said it is cheaper to hire an experienced officer than a new one. He said it costs nearly $59,000 before a new officer can work independently. He said an experienced officer costs about $26,000 because that officer requires less training. But that does not include the $15,000 hiring bonus.
Carroll acknowledged that many of these officers could come from neighboring law-enforcement agencies in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. He said he understands these agencies could be concerned but said his primary focus is Modesto.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said in an email that Valley law-enforcement agencies “struggle to identify, recruit and hire well-qualified applicants. I applaud the chief and city of Modesto for their efforts.”
“I understand the potential impact on the Sheriff’s Office,” Christianson wrote, “but we also focus on providing nothing but the best in training opportunities, equipment, career development opportunities and a variety of special assignments that may not be available in other law enforcement agencies. While we cannot fault employees who make decisions that are in the best interest of their families or for economic reasons, we hope they will choose to stay with the Sheriff’s Office.”
Turlock acting police Chief Nino Amirfar said he is concerned he could lose officers but said he does not fault Carroll. He said agencies across the United States and Canada are having difficulties hiring and keeping good officers. He said that issue came up when he recently attended a three-week training course at the Police Executive Research Forum in Boston.
But Amirfar said officers look at more than money. He said Turlock’s assets include city officials and a community that support public safety and a Police Department that offers state-of-the-art equipment and training and excellent benefits. He said Turlock is challenged in finding qualified candidates but not in keeping officers.
Ceres officials did not respond to requests for comment Friday.
Carroll said Modesto has been offering $4,500 bonuses since November 2014 but that has not been enough to make a difference. He said law-enforcement agencies across the state are offering bonuses, but he said Modesto would be the first in Stanislaus County.
The August issue of the Peace Officers Research Association of California’s magazine has job listings from several agencies offering bonuses. For instance, the Salinas Police Department is offering a $20,000 “hiring incentive” for experienced officers, Chico is offering a $10,000 signing bonus, and Berkeley is offering a signing bonus of as much as 10 percent of an officer’s base pay.
Carroll said his department has been treading water after losing 18 officers in 2014 to better-paying Bay Area agencies, adding that the department has hired about 78 officers in the past two years while losing about the same number.
Modesto’s current budget, which the council approved in June, increases police staffing from 218 to 240 sworn positions, from the police chief to the newest officer. Carroll said his department has about 216 officers but only about 190 of them are on the job. The rest are on workers’ compensation because of injuries, new hires waiting to enter the police academy, or are in the academy.
A city report shows 48 percent of the officers hired since 2014 are new to law enforcement and five percent are experienced officers from other departments. The rest served in the military, are former police cadets or Explorers, or worked as civilians in law enforcement.
Carroll said he expects it will take about a year to reach 240 officers and another six months before all of those officers are on the job.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316