PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) — The Palo Alto Police Department is struggling to hire qualified officers despite offering a large signing bonus. The department admitted that they’re having a hard time filling about a dozen positions, even though they’ve tried to recruit ten times in the last year.
“Thirteen or twelve vacancies for us does represent a substantial portion of the department,” said Lt. James Reifschneider of the Palo Alto Police Department.
Facing a high shortage of officers last year, the department began offering a $25,000 signing bonus for experienced officers and $10,000 for officers who’d already gone through an academy. Despite the generous incentives, this tactic only generated only a few hires and failed to fill the gap.
“One challenge of recruiting here in Palo Alto is the cost of living, particularly here on the peninsula. It’s high, even by Bay Area standards,” said Reifschneider.
Lieutenant Reifschneider is in charge of recruitment at the department, and he said Palo Alto is competing with other Bay Area law enforcement agencies.
“We’re just one of a dozen or more police departments in the county that are all hiring right now,” he said.
City leaders are hoping that a series of salary increases over the next few years will attract new recruits. The first hike–a five percent increase–went into effect this month.
In Palo Alto, the base salary is $98,000. That’s higher than San Francisco, San Jose, and San Mateo, but it’s still lower than Mountain View and Santa Clara.
Lieutenant Reifschneider said that the hiring struggle isn’t just hitting Bay Area departments, but that it’s happening statewide.
“California is an expensive place to live. The Bay Area is just one part of that, and the economy is booming everywhere and unemployment is low everywhere. We’re not uniquely situated, we’re just choosing to be proactive,” he explained.