Camas may offer bonus to attract new police officers

City could pay $10K for new entry-level officers, $30K for new officers with more experience

The city of Camas could soon offer thousands of dollars in bonuses to help attract new police officers.

City officials are mulling a staff proposal that would pay $10,000 to new, entry-level officers and up to $30,000 in bonuses for lateral-entry officers coming from other police departments.

“In recent years, the ability to hire police officers has become more difficult,” Jennifer Gorsuch, the city’s director of administrative services, told Camas City Council members during a July 18 Council workshop. “Agencies have started providing hiring bonuses to attract and compete for talented individuals who are considering the profession, or already in it but (who) would like to move to a different agency.”

Gorsuch said the bonuses would not be paid in one lump-sum but would, instead, be given over a specific time period: Entry-level officers, for instance, would receive $3,000 in their first paycheck and another $7,000 once they completed their probationary period. Lateral officers coming from different agencies would receive an $8,000 bonus in their first paycheck, four $3,500 bonuses — after a probationary period and again after two, three and four years of service — and an additional $8,000 once the officer completed five years with the Camas Police Department.

“The labor market is really tough for most positions right now, but especially for police officers,” Gorsuch said. “And hiring bonuses have become pretty common, especially in the last year.”

Other police agencies, including those in Vancouver and other Clark County cities, already offer bonuses to help attract new police officers, Gorsuch added.

“Other agencies are providing bonuses in different ways and amounts,” she said. “The only one (aside from Camas) who is not is Washougal.”

Gorsuch added that Camas Police Chief Mitch Lackey approves of the bonus proposal.

Camas City Councilman Don Chaney, who was Camas’ chief of police before Lackey, asked Gorsuch if she was concerned the bonus system might encourage “job hoppers” who would come to Camas for a short period of time just to collect the bonus money.

“It’s possible, but the odds of that happening are not great,” Gorsuch said, commenting that job hopping from police department to department would result in officers losing out on post-probationary period and seniority perks. “I haven’t heard of that happening around us.”

Gorsuch added that city staff have discussed the bonus proposal with local police union leaders.

“The police (union) is aware of it and that they are not benefitting from the hiring bonuses,” Gorsuch said, ‘but think it’s something that could help get some quality candidates in the door.”

Chaney said he believes the bonus system “makes a great deal of sense.”

“Recent times have caused the whole nation to review the quality of the candidate who is applying for law enforcement jobs,” Chaney said. “As a result, we have heard that a good number of police officers — good officers — are leaving. And I think fewer people want to become police officers. The challenge is: Do you lower your standards or do you strive to recruit the quality level of officer that we want patrolling our cities?”

Offering a monetary bonus, Chaney said, could help Camas recruit higher quality candidates.

“It’s critically important that we get the best candidates we can get,” Chaney said.

Councilmember Leslie Lewallen agreed with Chaney.

“If the goal of the city is to provide public safety, I would like to see (us) step out ahead of the issue and have the best (candidates) we can have,” Lewallen said.

Gorsuch said staff would draft a formal policy and bring it back to the Council later this summer.