Gastonia City Council considers $15,000 sign-on bonus for police officers

Gastonia City Council considers $15,000 sign-on bonus for police officers

GASTONIA, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Officials in Gastonia are working to attract new police officers by offering the highest sign-on bonus in North Carolina history.

The city council will vote on whether to give officers $15,000 as an incentive to join the force. Qualified officers would earn $7,500 upon hiring and the other $7,500 after a one-year probationary period.

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Gastonia Police got the idea from an agency in California that’s offering $75,000 as a sign-on bonus. Within 10 months, their department was full. Gastonia Police hopes elevating its sign-on bonus will also attract more officers.

In a memo to the city council, Chief Trent Conard says the department is staffed with 177 officers, but with 147 currently employed, the vacancies are straining department resources.

He says officers are currently experiencing job burnout and dissatisfaction with limited time for mental health and wellness.

To attract new recruits, the chief wants to more than double the current bonus of $6,000. He says the current bonus has attracted no new candidates.

Looking at cities across the state, several cities offer a $10,000 sign-on bonus, including Fayetteville and Durham. If Gastonia City Council votes in favor of the Recruitment and Referral program, the department would offer the highest bonus in state history.

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In an interview with Queen City News earlier this year, the chief said salary is a challenge when recruiting new officers.

“Competition in law enforcement right now is much like an arms race. . .  There’s constant salary evaluations, benefit packages,” Conard said. “What one agency does, another agency is going to do it and another agency is going to do it.”

The recruiting and referral program the council will consider also includes compensation for current officers for recommending qualified candidates.

The compensation depends on experience and will range from $1,000 to $6,000.

Gastonia City Council will discuss the recruiting and referral program at its meeting Tuesday evening. The public safety committee voted to pass the program unanimously.

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