Fremont police offering $10K signing bonus to attract new recruits

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The help wanted sign is out at police departments and agencies around Northern California. And many of those employers are relying on a tested-and-true method of recruiting workers.

Fremont police produced a slick new video to entice would-be hires to take the plunge. But its greatest incentive, a $10,000 signing bonus.

"I just think it's another way to help people as they enter into the career of law enforcement," said Fremont Police Lieutenant Matthew Snelson.

He says Fremont had seen a hiring freeze dating back to 2007. The subsequent depletion of ranks has led to 18 openings, with another 100 retirements on the horizon. Fremont's enticement is $5,000 up-front, and another $5,000 after a one-year probation is completed.

"It's a candidates market. And so I think we're all looking for the best candidates to become police officers. And we're trying to think of creative ways to entice people to come into the department," said Snelson.

The Fremont police department isn't alone in offering a financial incentive to try and get new recruits. And it's not paying the most money. The Seaside Police Department is offering $30,000 to new hires. Some departments are officering a $1,500 or $2,000 bonus to employees who refer someone who gets hired.​​​​​​​

"People who love and care about our community are interested in seeing what's best for this community. And they have contacts, six degrees of separation if you will," said Santa Cruz Police Chief Andrew Mills.

His department is offering a bonus to current officers and community members who help recruit new officers to come on-board. It's a new approach, but a smart one given the tight labor market, according to strategic management professor Robert Chapman Wood.

"You're limited in how much you can pay directly to a policeman because there's a set wage. But these little add-ins you can do different things. So there's reason it shouldn't work," said Dr. Wood.

Fremont has two new officers who've received the bonus. Other prospective hires are coming for a look-see before the program ends in July, as the challenge to hire those who'll protect and serve now offers a lucrative incentive.