A new program from the Santa Barbara Police Department, approved by City Council Tuesday, looks to alleviate the force’s hiring difficulties by offering monetary incentives to new candidates and those who refer them.

The department’s losing officers to retirement and lateral movement has left it below its fully staffed potential and under pressure to revamp its recruiting game. The Police Officer and Public Safety Dispatcher Recruitment Incentive Program aims to make SBPD a more competitive option for qualified candidates who are considering (or already have) better-paid law enforcement opportunities elsewhere.

For successfully recruiting qualified candidates as police officer trainees or, in the case of a lateral movement, police officers, all city employees — excluding those involved in the hiring process, elected officials, and executive managing employees — are eligible to receive a $1,000 “referral incentive payment” upon a candidate’s first paid day. The referrer receives another $1,000 once the candidate successfully completes the police officer probationary period.

On the flip side, candidates for police officer trainee and police officer may be offered $3,000 from the police chief upon completing the Field Training Officer (FTO) program, as well as another three grand once he or she has successfully completed the probationary period. An additional $6,000 is offered on the candidate’s three-year hiring anniversary.

The exact same deal goes for public safety dispatchers and public safety dispatcher trainees, with the exception of the hire’s first $3,000 incentive awarded for the completion of the Communications Training Officer program, rather than the FTO program. For new hires, SBPD’s next academy class kicks off in April and will be released from the Field Training Program the following March, according to a council agenda report prepared by the department.

The primary target for the new program, says SBPD Capt. Gil Torres, is lateral candidates who would be recruited from other forces. “We find that, if you look at other agencies across the state, they have this in place; we’re competing with agencies that offer signing bonuses,” he said. According to Torres, such signing bonuses have become a standard practice for departments throughout the state as shrinking candidate pools lead to hiring difficulties. In comparison, he says, Fresno’s force offers a $10,000 signing bonus.

The salary savings from unfilled positions are to pay for the referral and hiring payments. The desired number of hires for the next six months, which includes projected retirements, is 15, says Torres.


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