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Retention program helps fill Victoria police vacancies

By Bianca Montes
May 31, 2014 at 12:31 a.m.
Updated June 2, 2014 at 1:02 a.m.

How it works

Officers hired with the police department will be eligible to receive $1,500 if they promise to stay with the department for three years.

Upon successful completion of the first year, an additional $1,000 will be awarded to the employee. Another $1,000 will also be awarded going into the officer's third year with the police department.

If the employee leaves before reaching his or her fourth year, the employee will be responsible to pay back the incentive.

The incentive program is available to those who fill positions in the police department, the public works department and the solid waste department.

Source: City of Victoria

The Process

Interested applicants can apply online at the city of Victoria website. To work at the police department, an applicant must be certified by the Texas Commission of Law Enforcement.

Applicants must pass a physical, in which they will complete a 90-second run that is equipped with jumping over a 6-foot wall, a 4-foot wall and other obstacles. Applicants also must pass a written exam.

A full credit check, criminal history and background investigation will be administered. The process takes about one to two months.

The department requires 16 weeks of field training.

A cadet in the police academy starts out at $28,683 a year, and the annual salary of a trainee is $38,328. After a six-month probationary period, a beginning officer can advance to a patrol or a detective position, which starts at $42,264 a year.

Source: City of Victoria

The Victoria Police Department is closing the gap on its worst officer vacancy rate in years.

A recruitment position was created in December to fill 13 vacancies, a number that climbed to more than 25 open positions earlier this year.

Police Chief J.J. Craig said that since the 2010-11 year, he's lost 61 officers, a majority to the private sector.

"The oil field is an attractive job, especially for younger, tenured officers," he said.

More than half of the vacancies between 2010 and 2014 were created by officers who worked between one and four years with the department.

"The days of coming into a police organization and saying, 'I'm going to retire here' - those days are gone," Craig said. "Nowadays, officers are inclined to move around based on opportunities."

To help retain officers, officials with the city of Victoria created a bonus program to be more competitive in the marketplace. New, full-time employees hired on or after March 18 until Dec. 31 at the police department are eligible to receive $3,500 for a three-year commitment, said Cheryl Marthiljohni, Victoria human resources director.

The funding for the incentive program was taken from money previously budgeted for salaries. The police department's budget allows for 118 officer positions.

Officer David Brogger left his position with traffic safety in December to fulfill the role of recruiter, a prospect both he and Craig were excited about.

"(Officer Brogger) demonstrates a passion and pride in this organization, and that's exactly the kind of person I want out there," Craig said.

Brogger has traveled across the state visiting graduating classes of several police academies, bringing back with him what Craig referred to as the "best of the best."

The police department, as of Saturday, has 11 open vacancies, with an expected four or five applicants to be hired within the next two weeks, Craig said.

Ten officers were hired as a result of the recruitment effort made by Brogger.

"When I sit down and do the last interview with each and every one of (the new hires), and I ask them that question, 'Why Victoria Police Department over some other place?' seven out of ten - at least - gave credit to officer Brogger," Craig said. "He's cultivating those personal relationships with that - he's done a fantastic job."

Brogger said when he visits potential officers, he forgoes boring PowerPoint presentations and keeps it real.

"I've been doing this job for 10 years, and I still get excited to come to work," Brogger said. "I truly believe Victoria is a good place to work, and that's what I tell them."

In the three years Craig has served as chief, he said the department has never been in the position it's in now for perspective hires. He said about 18 officers are in some phase of the testing process and between 30 and 40 are in the application pool.

Craig said he would like to have all of the vacancies filled as soon as possible because of the strain it has caused the department. Because of the need to have a full patrol unit, which is 24 positions, he's had to cycle out officers in higher positions to keep what he considers the most important unit staffed.

"I've never had a full staff," Craig said. "The closest I got was six or seven shortages."

Last June, there were eight vacancies.

"I think we'll get close," he continued. "If the current trend continues, without a doubt, we'll be fully staffed by the end of the year."



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