Retention program helps fill Victoria police vacancies
May 31, 2014 at 12:31 a.m.
Updated June 2, 2014 at 1:02 a.m.
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."