BUTTE CO., Calif. – Some local law enforcement agencies are now offering signing bonuses to experienced officers.
Action News Now has spoken to several law enforcement agencies in our community today, and all say this industry is becoming more and more competitive.
The Redding Police Department just announced a $40,000 bonus for lateral hires, meaning officers are currently working for other departments.
They are not alone in this case. The Chico Police Department offers a hiring bonus of $10,000 for officers and $20,000 for dispatch positions. The Orland Police Department is offering a $15,000 hiring bonus.
These types of incentives impact neighboring agencies such as the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office.
“It leads us to become what has often been called a training ground,” said Capt. Dave Kain of the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office. “People who have worked here for several years have developed good experience and good training are then selected by these allied agencies around us who pay a lot more and have less professional responsibilities vis-à-vis their staffing.
The Butte County Sheriff’s Office is concerned about the impact of these bonuses on current employees.
“People who work at the agency who have dedicated many years of serving the citizens of this community, and then you say to someone who is new to the organization, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you a lot of money’ and not compensating the I think existing employees are more of a problem,” said Sheriff Kory Honea of the Butte County Sheriff’s Office.
It is important to note that compensation at these sheriff’s offices is determined by the County Board of Supervisors.
Tehama and Butte counties are conducting salary surveys to determine where his compensation falls on the competitive scale.
Sheriff Honea thinks his staff may be 15-20% behind median pay.
He told Action News Now that he was not opposed to hiring bonuses, but was focused on retaining their skilled and experienced staff.
The Butte County Sheriff’s Office has currently lost 41 positions – 17 deputy sheriffs, 11 correctional NCOs and five dispatchers. That’s a lot more vacancies than in the past.
Another challenge is that even if they find a new recruit, it is difficult to replace experience.
“We don’t want to lower our standards and bring in people who shouldn’t be in law enforcement, but doing so makes it difficult,” said University Police Chief Chris Nicodemus. State of Chico.
Law enforcement is also seeing fewer young people joining law enforcement these days.
The agencies told Action News Now there was not just one reason, but many. The pandemic has made some people want to continue working from home or retire.
State laws have also changed, keeping some people away. The main reason cited by agencies is the perception of law enforcement officers.
“There has been a continued erosion of respect for the rule of law,” Sheriff Honea said. “There have been past incidents that have put law enforcement under scrutiny, but the problem is when you try to recruit people into a career field and all they hear is negative things about the professional field, they will not be inspired to come and work for us.”
The agencies also told Action News Now that they are beginning to look after the mental and physical health of not just officers, but all of their employees.
Since the campfire, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office has implemented an employee wellness program to help.
Most agencies now also pay for their recruits to go through the Academy, but it takes months.
If there is a failed recruit, the agency has just spent thousands of dollars and has no new hires to show for.
Sheriff Honea told Action News Now that we may soon see a change in these trends.
“I think communities are getting more and more tired of lawlessness,” Sheriff Honea said. “I think they’re growing weary of the challenges associated with the climate we’re in. Hopefully the pendulum will swing back a bit and people will again appreciate what law enforcement is doing to keep our community safe.”