Nederland offers green to those training to wear blue
People interested in working for the Nederland Police Department will no longer be required to pay for their own training.
In an attempt to make working for the department more attractive, the City Council on Monday unanimously approved an amendment to the city’s wage and classification plan to pay cadets while they attend training.
“The police department currently has four vacant police officer positions. Staff has attempted to fill these positions as quickly as possible with minimal success,” City Manager Christopher Duque said. “The police chief believes it is necessary for the city to sponsor cadets to the police academy to expedite filling those vacancies.”
The Nederland police cadets would be paid $17.50 per hour, which would increase to, at minimum, nearly $26.50 per hour once they complete the police academy and are hired as a full-time officer.
They also would be required to sign a two-year commitment to the agency.
Longview Police Chief Mike Bishop, a member of the state Police Chiefs Association, said medium and smaller cities often have to compete with larger cities for officers, which makes hiring more challenging.
Officers often move on to larger cities, which usually can pay more, as their career progresses, leaving fewer opportunities for smaller departments to hire already-trained officers.
Paying a future officer while they attend the academy and for the training itself is a way these departments can make their jobs more competitive.
“It takes a bit longer to get a new recruit through the academy and field training, but if you’re faced with a not very good pool of already-certified officers, (paying for training) is the next best thing,” Bishop said.
He acknowledged that means a department is paying the salary of an officer who’s not out on the road. But if the position is being filled, it’s usually already been budgeted so there’s no net change in that cost.
The additional cost is for the actual training, which Lamar Institute of Technology Regional Police Academy director Jimmy LeBoeuf says costs about $4,500 or $5,000 per cadet.
Duque said ultimately, the additional expense to the city will be the portion of police academy training the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission does not cover.
Nederland currently has 28 budgeted sworn police officer jobs, including the four open positions.
Human Resources director Holly Guidry said the city is working through a hiring process with three already-trained officers, so it’s likely only one or two new cadets will be enrolled in the academy in the fall on the city’s dime.
The training program takes about 18 weeks and LIT sees an average of 22 cadets each semester.
LeBoeuf said about half of those cadets are sponsored by a law-enforcement agency.
The practice of sponsoring cadets is rising in popularity as departments nationwide face a police officer shortage.
As many lifelong officers become eligible for retirement, fewer potential officers are joining the profession.
LeBoeuf said at the same time, a growing number of potential officers are disqualifying themselves from service between the time they turn 18 and when they can attend the academy at 21.
They can be disqualified if convicted for certain crimes and drug use, among other reasons.