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More cities offering incentives to get best police officers

Posted at 11:37 AM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 21:28:19-04

BELLMEAD, TX — Cities around the country have begun taking a more careful look at who they hire for police officers.

It's naturally made the market for experienced officers a little tighter.

So how do you break the ice?

More cities have begun offering bonus money as a way to stand out.

But in the post-pandemic economy, signing bonuses are becoming more common by the day.

"I'm absolutely ready for this challenge,"said John Hoxie, who signed on the dotted line, as he accepted a new job with the city of Bellmead.

The move made sense he says, because he's ready for a bigger job with more responsibility. Some extra cash in the form of a signing bonus, doesn't hurt either.

And hiring Hoxie made sense to Bellmead, which will benefit from his 7 years experience in law enforcement to fill a need in its police department for more experienced officers.

Hoxie says, the extra money had nothing to do with his making the move, though he admits his family liked the idea.

"I've been married for quite a few years and I will say that that does have a factor with them," he said.

Bellmead's new signing bonus aims to grab attention and hopefully a few more experienced officers.

"They don't need any additional like academy training, they will still go through a FTO process, it will be fast tracked because they are certified and they have years of experience, but other than that we get to see a return and much faster," explained Brenda Kinsey, Bellmead's assistant police chief.

No doubt... that's why Bellmead used a tried and true method in it's new hiring program.

Cities like Killeen and Temple have successfully used competitive signing bonuses to get experienced officers... but Temple Chief Shawn Reynolds admits, it doesn't make finding candidates a whole lot easier.

"Hiring struggles are a worldwide phenomenon that we're all experiencing today. And so the challenges of getting good quality recruits are very real," he said.

And in the post-pandemic economy, lots of other businesses have also had very real struggles.

“We’re having a shortage of staff, there’s like almost 100 job postings," said Beth Gruitch, Co-owner of restaurant chain, Crafted Concepts.

More and more, small businesses have started to adopt the signing bonus or a boost in wages, as a way to grab attention and scarce new workers.

"Hiring bonuses referral bonuses, increasing pay especially for those entry level positions are generally what we're seeing as far as incentives," said Holly Wade, of the National Federation of Independent Business Research.

Incentives meant as a temporary measure, to get businesses back on their feet, in a hurry.

Professionals in human resources say paying a signing bonus only gets you a signature on the dotted line. What it does not guarantee you, they say, is a happy employee once they've spent that extra money.

Human resources executive, Danielle Corradino, sees signing bonuses as a useful tool as long as businesses limit their use, because the bonuses come with pitfalls.

"It's just a first year compensation so at the end, it goes back to the regular salary, and that's where someone could become become very dissatisfied so I don't think it should be a long term way to compensate at the end, you're still going to have those problems and someone who doesn't feel appreciated or paid for is going to then want that compensation and look for an annual review or an annual salary negotiation," Corradino said.

Additionally, unless a company has an endless pot of money, paying bonuses could break a company's bank account, according to Corradino.

"If you can't raise a salary, how many recruit signing bonuses can you give out?," Corradino said. "Especially if you don't have a clawback till it's just not profitable for you anymore. And if it's not profitable, and you don't have a plan B per se, you're in the same position."

She says, while you use the bonus, re-vamp your normal recruitment strategies, talk to employees about whats working and what isn't... something Bellmead's city manager has done.

"Money is a temporary satisfier. You're going to have the best paid people in the worst atmosphere and they will leave. I want to have well paid people and create an atmosphere that they can feel comfortable," said Yost Zachary, Bellmead city manager.

In total, Bellmead managed to offer a package that helped Hoxie make the move.

The bonus money may have got his attention... but the other "intangible" benefits of the job will help keep Hoxie here.

"I feel that this is somewhere that is investing in me and I'm choosing to return that. this is somewhere that I want to settle my roots down and retire and be proud to work for the city and impact the citizens that live here," said Hoxie.

Worth the money? Bellmead's cost of putting an officer through the police academy can total tens of thousands of dollars.

For five, the city got an officer ready to hit the streets, and an officer who looks forward to the challenges of his new job.