In an effort to beef up its candidate pools and attract already-experienced officers, The Marion Police Department will begin offering incentives — such as a hiring bonus and salary enhancements — to sweeten the deal.
The Marion Police Department is currently hiring for three patrol positions. The application period closes at noon Thursday.
And as per these new incentives, certified officers in Iowa — meaning they have already gone through the police academy — who sign on with the Marion Police Department will receive a $9,000 signing bonus that could be used for relocation expenses, to pay off a current contract with another agency or whatever else the officer chooses.
Additionally, officers, who are looking to make a lateral move — from one department to another — and choose to sign on with the Marion Department, will receive a starting salary that is commensurate with their experience up to seven years.
“That means if a candidate with six years of experience comes to us from department that has more than 30 officers, that officer will start at our department’s six-year salary level,” Police Chief Mike Kitsmiller said. “So that gives them a salary bump right off the bat.”
And for officers coming from smaller agencies (with less than 30 officers), the chief said, they too will receive a hiring bonus and salary enhancements, but the enhancements will be calculated at a lower rate where every three years experience will count for one year with MPD. For example, an officer who is coming in from a small department like University Heights or Clinton, with six years experience will start at the same salary rate as an officer who has been on the job for two years. The chief said that is because officers from smaller departments will likely require some time and training to adjust to a larger department and a more active community.
Approved by the Marion City Council last week, Kitsmiller said these “lateral transfer enhancements” are aimed at attracting officers from other departments who may be looking for a chance to get their feet wet with a larger agency or change agencies altogether.
“It’s not that we’re trying to poach officers from other departments, but sometimes it’s just not a good fit and the officer feels the need to look elsewhere,” he said. “I think anytime we can hire somebody that’s already been out on the streets, it gives us someone we can put out on the street sooner and it saves us money because we don’t have to send them through the academy.”
It’s no secret that police departments across the country are scrambling to find way to attract new recruits, and Marion is no different, the chief said. Kitsmiller said he believes there are two main reasons for this — the portrayal of police officers in the media, especially when it comes to their interactions with communities of color, and a younger generation that wants to work in jobs that offer more traditional schedule structures.
“What used to be attractive for police officers, as far as a government job goes, was that idea of steady, stable work,” he said. “And you worked a certain number of years and you can retire with a pension, and I don’t I don’t think people are looking for that anymore. They don’t like the idea of having to work odd shifts, because we’re a 24-seven operation. They don’t like work on weekends. So, that’s not attracted to them. So I think it’s just a different mind-set today.”
That makes it not as attractive as it used to be.
Actually, “Our last hiring session, we had three open positions and we received 28 applications,” he said. “And by the time they went through the testing and interviews, we had whittled the pool down to three.”
Additionally, only two of those candidates made it to the police academy where they are currently going through training.
“A lot of the candidates don’t make it through the testing phase,” Kitsmiller said.
New candidates have to pass a written exam that includes reading comprehension, some math, and reasoning. After that, there is a physical test, which consists of a run, some pushups and situps — the number of which is scaled depending on the candidate’s age — and a mental health examination.
This hiring session, the chief said MPD is looking to take on three new officers — one to fill the spot left empty during the last hiring period and two to fill newly created patrol positions — which would bring the personnel level up to 48 sworn officers.
“I think that the advantage of coming into a department this size is that we have pretty much every resource and unit a larger department would have — you know, we’ve got our own SWAT team and dogs and hostage negotiators just like everybody else — but, because we’re so small, the opportunity to promote can come a lot sooner.
“Usually, when people sign on with us, they typically don’t leave,” Kitsmiller said. “And the ones that do, they’re usually not going to other departments. Instead, they’re leaving law enforcement all together. So I think that says a lot about what it’s like to be a part of this department.”