The Turlock Police Department abandoned the process of hiring untrained recruits years ago. But now, with a number of vacancies on the force and a dearth of qualified local applicants, the practice will resume.
The Turlock City Council unanimously approved a new Turlock Police Department recruitment process Tuesday night. The process will hire new officers as recruits, then pay to send them to the six-month police academy.
“I’m hoping that we can garner some applicants from the Turlock community,” said Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson.
Exact details about the process, such as where cadets would go to the academy, remain unclear.
The cost to sponsor a candidate for the police academy are estimated at $10,000. That expense could be funded without any budget enhancements, using the funding currently allocated to vacant positions.
Jackson hopes to hire recruits by Aug. 1, considering the time it takes to conduct recruitment and background checks.
The new process won’t completely replace Turlock’s existing recruitment program, which looks to attract transfers from other departments or those who already have passed the police academy. But the new strategy is needed to supplement the department’s recruiting efforts, and ensure TPD is fully staffed.
“We’re having a difficult time filling our vacancies,” Jackson said.
The Turlock Police Department currently has six vacancies. Add another four to five people on medical leave, and the department is severely understaffed, Jackson said.
The department has tried to fill its vacancies, which councilman Steven Nascimento noted are both authorized and fully funded, but has been unsuccessful.
The main sticking point, Jackson said, is a lack of qualified candidates in the area. Since the area’s only police academy closed in 2010, few local residents have the needed training.
“What we’re finding is, there’s not that many people that have that certificate,” Jackson said.
The new process isn’t a panacea. There’s still a chance that candidates could fail to pass the academy, leaving Turlock to pay for no results. Jackson noted that department-sponsored recruits have historically done well at the police academy, though.
“That’s a risk we’d have to take,” Jackson said “… That’s one of the drawbacks of going to this process.”
And, of course, there’s always the concern that trained police officers could leave Turlock for a better paying job elsewhere after receiving their certificate.
“You can make more in the Bay,” said Councilwoman Amy Bublak, who also serves as a Modesto Police Officer. “Unfortunately, you have to live there or commute.”