A $10,000 hiring incentive is going into effect for new hires with the McAlester Police Department who are already certified through the state Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training.
Police Chief Kevin Hearod hopes the $10,000 hiring incentive will prove helpful in attracting more officers to MPD who are already CLEET-certified — saving the city the expense and time of having to send a new recruit through the CLEET Academy. Hearod said it takes several months to complete the CLEET Academy training.
"With the sign-on bonuses, we're hopeful we'll be able to get certified officers working at other agencies to apply," Hearod said Thursday.
Hearod maintained paying a $10,000 incentive to new recruits at MPD who are already CLEET-certified will save the city money, because it costs more than $12,000 to pay for a new hire to go through the CLEET Academy.
MPD also has money available to pay for the bonuses due to several unfulfilled positions on the police force, he said.
City councilors voted unanimously to approve the hiring incentive this week during their regular Tuesday night meeting at City Hall. Hearod previously presented information regarding this request for the $10,000 incentive request during the council's first meeting in August, relating the difficulty of attracting new recruits to a career as a police officer these days — not only locally, but nationally as well.
MPD is budgeted for 45 officers, but several positions are vacant.
"We have 41 officers," Hearod said, but only 39 are available. "Thirty-nine are certified and two are in the academy."
With the police force already down by four officers, Hearod said three more MPD officers have already told him they intend to retire over the coming months — one in the winter and two more this spring.
In addition to the expense of getting a new recruit CLEET-certified, Hearod said CLEET offers the instruction on a limited basis. "They only do it three times a year, he said
Included in the measure approving the $10,000 incentive for previously CLEET-certified officers signing on with MPD is a breakdown of how it will be paid.
It calls for $5,000 to be paid on the first normal pay period after the already CLEET-certified officer is formally hired.
Another $2,500 will be paid on the first normal pay period after the successful completion of MPD's Field Training Program.
The final $2,500 installment is to be paid on the first normal pay period after the employee has completed the one-year probationary employment period with MPD.
New recruits participating in the program must sign a written agreement and promissory note agreeing to maintain employment with the city of McAlester for at least five years from the date of hire.
If the employee does not satisfy the agreement for any reason, the employee is responsible for paying back the pro-rated portion of the sign-on incentive.
The $10,000 hiring incentive is not available to McAlester police officers already on the force. Those who have previously left MPD but want to return are also not eligible for the $10,000 incentive program.
Training at the CLEET Academy is only part of the required process to join MPD. Field training is also required, which typically takes from 10-to-12 weeks, Hearod said. That's in addition to the physical requirements, a background check and other things required to sign on as a McAlester police officer.
Hearod said he appreciated the council approving the bonus program. It also had the support of Mayor John Browne and City Manager David Andren.
"I was really pleased and proud we got a unanimous vote," Hearod said. "We're a little shorthanded; we've had lots of people retire and go to other agencies. This will go a long way toward fixing that."
City Manager Andren said during the August council meeting offering a $10,000 bonus for already-certified police officers is sustainable by the city of McAlester, noting it's less than the approximately $12,000 the city has to pay to send non-certified officers through the CLEET training.
"If we're going to hire somebody off the street, it's $12,000" to get them the required CLEET training, he said.
Hearod said the city has other incentive programs, such as a retirement system, step pay increases and increased pay for obtaining more education, along with other incentives.
He said the city needed to offer bonuses to new police recruits in order to be competitive in hiring more officers.
"Law enforcement agencies are struggling to recruit, train and retain police officers," Hearod said at the earlier meeting. That's also true in McAlester, he said.
"We've been struggling for awhile to find qualified recruits," said Hearod.
Contact James Beaty at email@example.com.