Clovis police recruiting woes resurface

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Police Chief Dan Blair swears in new officer Anthony Garcia Tuesday at the police department.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

The Clovis Police Department is struggling to find qualified applicants.

The department has seven open officer positions on a budgeted staff of 64, according to Lt. James Schoeffel, department training and recruiting officer. Most of the open positions are for entry-level patrol officers.

The shortage could result in longer shifts and a cutback on non-essential services.

“Our applicant pool has shrunk,” Schoeffel said. “Nationwide there’s less of a calling to the profession,” he said. “It’s a noble profession, but I think it’s lost some of its luster.”

With law enforcement agencies competing for employees nationwide, small departments are at a disadvantage geographically and financially, Schoeffel said.

Money isn’t the answer, Clovis Police Chief Dan Blair said.

“The way I see it, you give an incentive to somebody who just wants that money and then they’re gone in a couple of years,” he said.

“You pretty much have to want to be in Clovis to be a Clovis police officer.”

Nor does Blair want to lower hiring standards.

In 2005, the department was granted across-the-board pay raises ranging from $2 to $5 to help with recruitment and retention. The improved wages drew an influx of recruits, but it was short-lived, Blair said.

“(Pay) was a factor at the time; some will argue it’s still a factor. My thing is there’s just not a pool of people that want to be law enforcement officers,” he said.

The department averages five patrol officers on each of the department’s three eight-hour shifts. Blair said his staff has been good about adjusting schedules and duties to cover shortages, but a fresh infusion is needed.

The shortage could mean a cutback in community and school programs. For example, school resource officers will only spend four out of five days in the schools to keep personnel on the streets.

Schoeffel said he holds test days twice a month to screen applicants and usually has two to three hopefuls attend. He said 10 or 15 years ago, 50 or more would show up.

Schoeffel said approximately one-third of applicants survive initial screening but are eliminated in the selection process — a combination of physical, academic and psychological testing and a background investigation.

76
Average calls responded to per day

35
Officers in positions that routinely respond to calls.

$14
Hourly pay rate for recruits. Certification raises the rate to $15.