Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer now has a beefed-up recruiting program.
The City Council on Thursday approved a deal that pays a $10,000 bonus to any experienced California peace officer who joins the force and stays at least two years.
The tweak to the Fresno Police Officers Association contract includes a $1,000 bonus to a current Fresno officer who successfully recruits one of these “lateral hires.”
“It’s a good day for the citizens of Fresno,” Dyer said after the vote. “We’re going to be able to attract the best and the brightest.”
City Hall for a number of reasons struggled to restaff the police force in the wake of the Great Recession. The department was authorized six years ago to have 849 positions. The force today barely tops 700 sworn officers.
Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s new budget promises 760 cops by next June.
Lateral hires would begin work with 40 hours of vacation and 40 hours of sick leave.
Police departments throughout the state face similar rebuilding challenges now that the economy is improving.
Add it all up and Dyer has big hurdles to clear if he’s to reach the mayor’s goal. He expects half of the expansion to consist of recent graduates from the police academy. He wants the other half to come from lateral hires — veterans highly valued for their hard-earned wisdom.
Dyer said the prospect of a $10,000 bonus is already grabbing the attention of potential recruits.
The money to both lateral hires and the cops who refer them would be paid in four installments. Each installment is triggered after the lateral hire fulfills a specific obligation, such as completing probation.
Council Members Esmeralda Soria and Paul Caprioglio said the city must come up with a long-term plan for keeping the ranks full.
In other action, the council:
▪ Gave the green light to Public Utilities officials to apply for nearly $2.2 million in grants from the Fresno Council of Governments for infrastructure projects. These projects include traffic signals at the intersections of Fresno Street/L Street, Tulare Street/L and Mariposa Street/Divisadero Street in downtown.
▪ Approved the adoption of a law that prohibits the city from displaying or selling the Confederate battle flag on city-owned property. The law, introduced earlier this month, does not apply to individuals exercising their rights of free speech.
▪ Voted in closed session to sue the state over the fate of a huge Redevelopment Agency debt to the city. City officials said City Hall should be repaid (with interest) for loans made to the RDA over the course of 50-plus years. City Hall says the debt is $108 million. The state, which dissolved redevelopment agencies several years ago during a budget crisis, so far has approved the repayment of $24 million. The city and the state are fighting over the remaining $84 million.