In an effort to put at least 1,000 more officers on the streets, the Houston Police Department plans to offer signing bonuses of up to $12,000 to new cadets, reports the Houston Chronicle. The decision to offer bonuses follows similar moves by other police departments and the military, all of which are competing for the same pool of applicants. Dallas has offered a $10,000 incentive to police cadets – even advertising the deal on Houston billboards. With a starting salary of $41,690, Dallas is reeling in recruits from Houston, where the base pay is just $29,000. “The field has never been as competitive as it is right now, and you’ve got to do something,” said Capt. Dwayne W. Ready, head of the Houston police human resources division.
The Houston Police Officers’ Union criticized the bonus plan characterizing it as a Band-Aid solution to a more serious problem of an uncompetitive pay scale and warned it could hurt morale. The department employs about 4,800 officers, and Police Chief Harold Hurtt wants at least 6,100 to keep pace with population growth. The national average is 2.8 officers per 1,000 residents, and Houston is at 2.2 per 1,000. “You are basically giving a new officer a raise of up to the level of almost a second year officer, and I think that’s a morale problem,” said union president Gary Blankinship. Said union director Mark Clark: “What are you saying to people who’ve already committed to a career here? You’re sending a poor signal.”