In an era of law enforcement agencies facing difficulties in filling their ranks, an agency that fails to pay competitive wages will see potential and current sworn personnel go elsewhere. The latest illustration of that truism, as detailed in an
from the Sacramento Bee, is the Sacramento Police Department which is only beginning to rebuild its ranks by finally paying competitive wages.
After several years of being at the bottom of the salary range regionally and seeing an exodus of police officers to nearby agencies which paid more, city leaders finally stepped up. A new two-year contract provided a pay raise, additional salary increases for officers with 4 1/2 years tenure, and cash incentives for officers to buy homes in the city.
There is a limited pool of qualified applicants for open law enforcement positions, be it new applicants or potential lateral hires. Agencies which refuse to pay competitive salaries only discourage applicants, and encourage their current personnel to leave for better paying law enforcement careers.
In a competitive job market, some law enforcement agencies such as
have resorted to offering lateral transfers $10,000-$20,000 signing bonuses. The
has a complete list of law enforcement openings, and many offers describe
incentives ranging from bonuses to extra hours of vacation leave and sick leave. The problem is not just limited to California as evidenced by what has been occurring in
. In contrast, fewer
New Orleans Police Department
officers are leaving the force than at the same time last year as a result of pay increases and career path reorganization.
Factors other than pay often affect what law enforcement agency a potential recruit will consider. For example, the requirement that a new Los Angeles County deputy sheriff must begin his career working in the jail is an impediment to recruiting when candidates know other large law enforcement agencies with similar or higher pay ranges do not have this requirement. Signing bonuses may be a short-term attraction, but a department seeking to reach or remain at full strength must offer competitive pay and benefits
, possess a top-notch professional reputation, have strong recruiting efforts, and a desirable career path.
An improving economy is certainly welcome, but it makes the job of recruiting and retaining the very best law enforcement officers more difficult if wages and benefits are not competitive.