New Police Officer Hiring Incentive Adopted by Council

Alameda Police Department -- City Council adopted a resolution establishing a temporary hiring incentive for lateral — already sworn officer from other police departments — academy graduate and entry level police officers.

New Police Officer Hiring Incentive Adopted by Council

At its March 21 meeting, the City Council adopted a resolution establishing a temporary recruitment and hiring incentive policy that will offer a $75,000 recruitment bonus to newly hired sworn Alameda Police Department (APD) officers.

According to the resolution, $25,000 will be marked as a signing bonus upon the officer being sworn in and proof of graduating with a post certificate, while the remaining $50,000 will be paid upon completing field training. The $50,000 payment comes with a guarantee the officer will remain on staff for five years. If the police officer voluntarily leaves the department, they would be required to repay APD at a prorated amount of $10,000 per year. The $25,000 will not be repaid if the officer leaves before his five-year commitment.

The $75,000 incentive would be temporary until APD fills its authorized staffing level of 88 sworn officers. If APD gives 24 people the hiring incentive, it would cost $1.8 million. APD will not need additional funding or an increase in its budget to implement the recruiting bonus. Instead, APD will use existing funding from salary savings within the department's budget to fund the temporary recruitment bonus.

APD has struggled to reach its authorized staffing levels for years. Currently, APD has 64 sworn officers, 24 less than their authorized level.

“With lower staffing numbers, officers are having to cover larger areas to include up to three beats at a time,” said Joshi. “Ideally, I would like to have one officer assigned to one beat.”

The recruitment incentive is for all police officer hires whether lateral police officers — officers making a lateral move from other police departments — recent academy graduates, and entry-level police officers.

APD officers are also tasked with mandatory overtime, which Joshi said is "a topic of concern brought to me by the Alameda police Officers Association.”

According to Joshi, police officer attrition is out paced hiring. Since Joshi was hired as police chief in June 2021, APD has hired 20 officers, while 27 have left. Over half left due to service and disability retirements.

City staff believe the low officer roster is a result of cost-of-living expenses in Alameda (along with negative public sentiment for police officers). Staff have upped their recruitment efforts recently by advertising on social media, streamlining hiring procedures, attending job fairs, and more. But police staff levels have remained low. City staff believe the recruitment incentive will lead to more hires.

“We need to do something big and something that creates a sparked interest that puts APD and the City of Alameda at the absolute forefront of recruiting instead of matching or competing with other agencies,” said APD Police Chief Nishant Joshi during his presentation at the council meeting. “By having everyone apply to APD we can select the absolute best and ultimately grow our agency with the best.”

Public speakers were mixed on the resolution. Some felt officer growth was a main priority.

“You don’t need to see the chief of police’s crime stats to know that crime is on the rise,” said Alameda resident Wayel Fare. “The fact that we're overdeveloping every part of the island and the police force is not keeping up is just insane.”

While others felt the money could go elsewhere.

“The proposed hiring incentive APD is putting forth this evening is egregious and a completely irresponsible use of public money,” said Alameda resident Savanna Cheer who asked the council to vote no. “This hiring incentive program looks like a scramble to hold on to budget dollars to avoid addressing the inevitable reality that APD's footprint will shrink moving forward with the permanence of alternative response programs like care team or parking enforcement.”

Nonetheless, the resolution passed with a unanimous vote from the council with a few added provisions.

Councilmember Trish Herrera Spencer wanted APD and city staff to give an update after one year to see how the incentive impacted police officer hiring. Councilmember Malia Vella wanted to add a provision that if someone is put on administrative leave during their five-year commitment, and then terminated for cause, that time spent on administrative leave would not count toward their service commitment. The police officer would be stipulated to pay back their $50,000 bonus according to the time they were placed on leave. Both provisions were added to the resolution, however, the latter provision needs to be agreed to by the Alameda Police Officer Association.