Police department works to fill vacant positions
by Jon Mendelson
Mar 14, 2013 | 2228 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For the past few months, the thin blue line of the Tracy Police Department has been thinner than usual.

According to figures released by the department, there were eight vacancies as of Feb. 25 for sworn officers — officers with the power to arrest suspects.

An officer and a sergeant are also set to retire before the end of the fiscal year June 30. The department is budgeted for 86 sworn officers through that time.

Chief Gary Hampton said a cluster of retirements is largely responsible for the high number of open jobs.

“We had five people retire within a 120-day window,” he said, calling it “a very short period of time.”

Though the department is shorthanded, Hampton said the number of cops patrolling the streets has not changed. Five officers and a sergeant work each patrol shift in each of the city’s five police coverage districts, he said.

The gaps are filled by having officers work overtime.

“We’ve made sure to maintain our first-level response,” Hampton said. “Everybody’s pulled together to make sure nobody’s working too (many) hours.”

The police department is on pace to exceed its overtime budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

According to Hampton, $397,089 of the $581,200 overtime budget was spent between July 1 and Jan. 1, with officer vacancies the prime factor.

However, the chief said the money that would have paid the missing officers’ salaries helped make up for the overtime expense. Specific numbers were not immediately available.

Hampton hopes to have all vacancies filled by July 1.

He called the hiring process “absolutely competitive,” as police departments up and down the Central Valley are trying to replace retiring officers.

Compounding the problem, Hampton said, is that Tracy has not hired a significant number of people since it began cutting its general fund budget in response to declining tax revenue several years ago.

The police department staff fell from the equivalent of 154.94 full-time workers in 2009-10 to 125 in 2012-13, according to city budget documents.

Hampton said all the police department’s forms, advertisements and materials regarding hiring need to be updated.

“On top of that,” he said, “today our human resources department is smaller than it was five years ago.”

But Hampton said there is progress.

Three new officers took their public oath of office during the Feb. 19 Tracy City Council meeting, and a fourth who began duty on Feb. 25 is set to take his public oath Tuesday, March 19.

Hampton said those who are hired will be “ready to step right into their positions.”

• Contact Jon Mendelson at 830-4231 or jmendelson@tracypress.com.
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