PORTLAND — Chronic staffing shortages have led Police Chief Michael Sauschuck to approve offering $10,000 signing bonuses for 10 new officers and four new dispatchers.
Sauschuck announced the bonus program May 5 at police headquarters on Middle Street.
“We found it necessary at this point to step up our game and offer these bonuses,” he said of the programs. Those hired as police officers will receive $2,500 when sworn in, $2,500 when graduating from the state Criminal Justice Academy and a 14-week field training program, and $5,000 when completing a two-year probationary period.
Dispatchers hired for the Portland Regional Community Dispatch Center will receive $2,500 on their first day of work, $2,500 after completing a six-month training program, and $5,000 when completing two years of employment.
All bonuses would have to be returned if the officers or dispatchers leave before completing five years of service, Sauschuck added.
Police departments regionally and nationally are having difficulty filling positions, Sauschuck said. The Brunswick and Westbrook Police departments are also offering hiring bonuses; it’s been the practice in Brunswick since August 2016.
“I think it is enough money to draw people from anywhere,” Sauschuk said about the bonuses. In 2016, the average salary for new officers was $54,000, plus benefits.
The bonuses will not alter hiring standards, the chief said, adding the city police department hires 6 percent of applicants. At full strength, there are 163 officers, but there are 12 vacancies now and as many as seven officers will be taking some kind of leave this summer.
The next academy class begins in August, and Sauschuck has already said three budgeted additions to strengthen the community policing program are not likely to become a reality this summer.