Kevin Valine

Modesto police look at incentives to attract officers

From left, Officer Gerald Bohanan, Officer Rommel Cuellar, Officer Mark Starr, Officer Joseph Lamantia, Officer Evan Swearingen and Officer Mark Ulrich with Chief Galen Carroll. Carroll acknowledged their heroism during a jan. 5 rescue of a woman who'd been shot by her boyfriend.
From left, Officer Gerald Bohanan, Officer Rommel Cuellar, Officer Mark Starr, Officer Joseph Lamantia, Officer Evan Swearingen and Officer Mark Ulrich with Chief Galen Carroll. Carroll acknowledged their heroism during a jan. 5 rescue of a woman who'd been shot by her boyfriend. etracy@modbee.com

The Modesto Police Department will try to address its trouble recruiting officers by offering a $4,500 bonus to veteran cops who join the department, hiring promising recruits while they still are in the police academy and creating a police cadet program to develop its own officers.

Police Chief Galen Carroll outlined the program to the City Council on Tuesday. Council members unanimously approved the program, which has an annual cost of more than $400,000 and will be funded through the salary savings of budgeted but unfilled positions.

The Police Department is allocated 209 sworn officers, but Carroll told council members he has 183 working officers. He also has three officers undergoing field training, nine out on injuries and six vacancies. Additionally, there are eight in the academy who will join the department once they complete training.

Carroll said Modesto is losing officers to Bay Area agencies, which pay substantially more. Modesto has lost six officers this year to Hayward, Sunnyvale, Livermore and Union City. He said the officers are commuting to their new jobs while living here. He said there are 10 other officers who are testing with other agencies and are poised to leave.

He said the base pay for a Hayward officer is more than $100,000. Modesto’s base pay is $61,712 to $75,012, according to the city’s website.

“Officers are finding they can commute to a Bay Area city, work less overtime, have a much lighter workload and be able to get time off for more pay and benefits,” Carroll said in an email. “They look at the commute as a tradeoff for how much overtime we have to work here.”

Unlike Bay Area cities, which have seen their economies rebound, Modesto still is dealing with budget woes. It has cut core services such as parks, streets and public safety to deal with shrinking revenues. For instance, the Police Department was allocated 287 officers in 2007.

Carroll believes the incentive program will help his department. It consists of:

▪  Paying an incentive of $4,500 each for as many as 15 veteran officers who join the department. They would receive $2,000 when hired and $2,500 when they complete probation. Modesto officers who recommend and mentor these officers would receive $1,500. The department does not have a full-time recruiter so this will help land veteran officers from other agencies.

▪  Creating a police cadet program that consists of 15 cadets who would work part time and earn $21,644 each annually. The cadets would be former police Explorers, between the ages of 18 and 25, and attending college. They would work in support roles, such as helping in parking enforcement and animal control. The goal of the program is to give cadets the experience and support they need to become police officers.

▪  Hiring promising recruits while they still are in the police academy. This speeds up the hiring process and lets Modesto remain competitive in attracting promising recruits. These recruits still would need to undergo background checks and other measures before becoming police officers. These recruits would be paid $3,700 to $4,500 a month and can be reimbursed for their academy expenses.

Carroll said in the email that despite being short-staffed, Modesto officers continue to work hard and have made 1,303 more arrests this year compared with last year.

“I am very proud of how hard they are working to keep Modesto safe,” he wrote, “but I need to find a way to get the officers help and let them know help is on the way.”

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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