Area police departments offer sign-on incentives as they struggle to attract new officers

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WAUWATOSA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Police recruiting is down nationwide. Departments are trying to draw people back to the job with monetary incentives.

Officers hired by Wauwatosa this year will get a $7,500 bonus for accepting the job and sticking with it through the 18-month probationary period.

Wauwatosa police have 93 sworn officers. That's 12 less than what they're authorized to have. But finding qualified candidates is not so easy.

"So we went to our council and said how can you help us?" said Wauwatosa Police Lt. Katie Gierach. 

The city came through, approving four new hires to take home an extra $7,500 this year.

"While we are trying to draw people to Wauwatosa, we also want to share the message that law enforcement's a great career and there are a lot of great departments out here to join," said Lt. Gierach.

Departments are having to get creative. Places like Glendale, Arizona are offering big cash -- $10,000 to sign on. 

West Bend's doing outreach with a video. They don't have a hiring bonus, but they do offer something else.

"We fully reimburse the recruit school, cost of the recruit school and any reasonable fees, so any associated fees. It's about a $6,000 signing bonus, if you will," said West Bend Police Chief Tim Dehring. 

Chief Dehring says years ago, West Bend had to reserve the UW campus lecture hall for its hundreds of applicants. That's greatly changed.

"Five years ago we were probably seeing maybe 80. Two years ago, we were seeing 40. Our last test we had 12 people," said Chief Dehring.

Statewide, a bill has already passed the Assembly that could help build the numbers.

"We've passed some legislation that would use federal ARPA dollars to create a bonus program. One of those programs would include $5,000 in bonuses for all new officers in the state. So we're really trying to show folks that we support our law enforcement, that we want them part of our communities, and that we need more high quality individuals to go into this," said State Rep. Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva) Speaker Pro Tempore.

Anyone interested in working for Wauwatosa or West Bend police can find more details and applications on their websites. 

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