LEAGUE CITY — With four officers’ positions to fill the city is using billboards, movie theater commercials and its website to attract as many applicants as possible. Police Chief Michael Kramm wants to go beyond just hiring and training new officers; he’d like to hire officers who have more experience in the field.

That’s not as easy as it may sound. While pay for League City police officers is competitive, an officer with three or more years experience with another department starts off at the same salary scale as a fresh-faced recruit.

A League City police officer that has been with the department for three years gets a base salary of $58,677. An officer, who has his certification and with three years experience at another department who goes to work for League City starts out at $52,868 and is bumped up to $55,529 after on the job for six months.

Once the officer has been on the job for a year, the base pay is upped to $57,677 a year. Civil Service requirements prohibit the city from paying officers a higher rate no matter how much experience he or she brings to the job.

As part of the latest recruiting effort, the city instituted a $5,000 bonus program to entice certified officers with three or more year’s experience.

The first $2,500 is paid after the officer completes the department’s field training program and another $2,500 when he or she has finished a 12-month probationary period.

For Kramm, the incentive is worth the investment. He gets a more experienced crop of officers and says the $5,000 bonus actually saves the department money in the long run.

Many of the officers who seek to work for League City are not certified. Training those non-certified officers costs money and it takes time to get them from training to patrolling the streets, Kramm said.

Between March 2010 and July 2013, the police department had seven police entrance exams from which 37 probationary officers were hired. Of those, 10 washed out before their first 12 months on the job were up.

All 10, Kramm said, were non-certified officers.

During the past three years, the department has hired eight to nine officers each year. Two out of every three probationary officers are not certified, the chief said.

Non-certified officers require extra training, including sending recruits through a police academy at either San Jacinto College, University of Houston or the Harris County Sheriff’s Office at a cost of about $3,100 per officer.

Nearly a third of those officers never make it past their first year on the job and the city is unable to recoup the money spent on training.

Including the costs for training, salary and benefits the cost to get a non-certified officer on the street and on patrol is about $78,000.  An officer who is already certified and comes to work for League City costs the department about $32,000, Kramm said.

That’s a difference of $46,000. Even with a paid bonus, the savings is more than $40,000.

“We could save as much as $107,000 per year after bonuses are paid,” Kramm said.

City Manager Mark Rohr said he liked Kramm’s “out of the box” thinking. Soon after Kramm outlined his plan to the City Council, the 11 billboards across the region the city purchased promoted the $5,000 bonus for experienced officers.

Filling vacant spots, especially with experienced officers, is a burden for any department. Departments big and small report struggles filling vacant posts and in many cases, budget constraints prevent cities from filling those vacant posts.

Texas City, which has 84 officers, just recently filled all of its vacant spots, Chief Robert Burby said.

A new officer, no matter his or her experience level, starts off at $42,910 a year under the police department’s collective bargaining contract. Burby is asking the city commission to grant him three more officer positions with the start of the new fiscal year.

A new officer with the Galveston Police Department makes $43,989 annually the first year and after 12 months on the job is paid $49,453 a year, according to department records.

Galveston Police Chief Henry Porretto said under his department’s collective bargaining agreement, he has some leeway to offer more money to officers who fill a specific need or have a skill set the department needs.

Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or tjaulds@galvnews.com.

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