Historic police cars and other emergency vehicles dating back to a 1930 CHP Model A Ford were to be expected in Ripon on Saturday.
After all, it was the 21st annual Emergency Vehicle Display Show and Recruiting Fair.
But more stunning than the 100-plus vehicles were the job offers for valley officers who have been laid off due to the recession.
The San Francisco Police Department fliers offered a $5,000 signing bonus for established officers wishing to join their force – upon completion of a field training program.
While I knew the annual car show was also billed as a recruitment fair, it was hard to comprehend that there would actually be openings available in the Bay Area communities for the displaced Manteca, Stockton, Tracy, Modesto and Sheriff’s Office patrolmen within the recession environment.
Three tented tables manned by recruiting officers dotted throughout the displays of the old restored vehicles. There was Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department (BART) and the San Francisco Police Department – all looking for officers and Contra Costa needing dispatchers as well.
Contra Costa Sheriff’s Sergeant Tory Kornblum and dispatcher Christie Wendling talked about the shortage of positions throughout the Central Valley and the state for sworn officers.
They even offered me an application on the spot. Chuckling, I countered that I was over the age limit and Wendling replied that was not the case for being a Sheriff’s dispatcher. They were serious about the slots they have to fill as were the officers from the other two departments from over the Altamont.
Curious about the dispatcher qualifications, I learned that a candidate has to be over 18 and be able to type at least 40 words a minute. Heck, I got the age minimum beat and typing, well, I can beat that one too with about 65 words a minute. And, multi-tasking skills are a must – something every reporter must possess.
Candidates for officers and dispatchers must pass a thorough background investigation, medical screening and a psychological evaluation and prove they can remain calm under pressure. The dispatcher position in Contra Costa County starts at $4,200 a month and tops out at $5,359.
Deputy Sheriff in that 450,000-resident community offers six salary steps from $5,451 a month to $6,791. Insurance options include medical, dental and life insurance for employees and their dependents. Contra Costa County includes 12 individual cities.
The two BART officers I met at their recruiting tent were also good to talk to in my wanderings Saturday morning. It was obvious in talking with all the department representatives that social skills are foremost in their respective assignments.
The BART department is comprised of 300 personnel with 215 being sworn officers – most being assigned to patrol duty. It also offers detective, field training canine handler, bicycle patrol, tactical team, traffic, SWAT, and hostage negotiation. They start at about $5,500 and advance to $7,422 a month. They, too, have paid medical, dental, vision and prescription drug plans for employees and dependants as does San Francisco Police Department.
The San Francisco recruiting officer was equally professional and thorough in explaining what his department has to offer. They need 90 recruits to go through their academy and 20 veteran officers who would be willing to transition from other police agencies throughout the state already having Peace Officers Standards in Training certificates.
The Bay Area’s largest department is expecting some 500 officers to retire next year that will also have to be replaced out of the 2,100-strong force. SFPD salary scale starts at $85,748 and tops out at $114, 764 with 90 percent retirement at 50 years old. Their current plan is to have academy classes of some 50 cadets each this fiscal year. Lateral officers are also required to attend an eight week abbreviated academy rather than the full six months.
A few of Manteca’s laid off patrolmen have already found other employment over the hill and it’s sad in a way to see more looking to the west after proving themselves in our own community. There are six retiring at the end of the year knowing that if they stay on the Manteca force they face losing all but $100 of their medical coverage should they retire at a later date.
In the meantime San Joaquin County has been allocated $4.6 million in stimulus funds that is expected to be used for additional sheriff’s deputies and correctional officers. Sheriff Steve Moore’s office said a determination of who will be hired and for what assignments will be determined early in 2012.