Dixon Extends $30,000 Hiring Bonus to Police Sergeants

Dixon, CA: On Tuesday, the Dixon City Council voted unanimously to offer sergeants hired from another police department a $30,000 incentive bonus. The bonus would mirror what is currently offered to lateral police officers hired by the Dixon Police Department.

Dixon City Manager Jim Lindley and Police Chief Robert Thompson provided background on what led to their request to extend the incentive. Since 2019, the City of Dixon has offered a hiring incentive to “lateral” police officers (generally an officer with two years experience from another department). In 2022, the incentive was increased to $30,000. Lindley said the incentive program for officers has successfully resulted in four lateral hires.

The Dixon Police Department recently held a recruitment process for the position of police sergeant (a first-line police supervisor). It was open to internal and external candidates. Chief Thompson said they attracted a total of three applicants. The recruitment process costs approximately $10,000 and city staff want to ensure they are attracting as many qualified applicants as they can.

The chief pointed to the juxtaposition that a newly hired lateral police officer is offered a hiring incentive but a newly hired lateral supervisor is not.

No councilmembers objected. One member of the public spoke in support of offering higher wages overall to police officers in the city to encourage retention as well as recruitment, recognizing a national shortage of interest in law enforcement as a career.

Editorial Comment From All Solano

As a law enforcement officer of 15 years, I’ve watched several cities offer hiring incentives for lateral officers – a concept unheard of only five years ago. There’re mixed feelings about hiring incentives among policing agencies. They promote “stealing” officers from other agencies and do little (or nothing) to bring more people into the profession.

Small police departments face bigger challenges in attracting and retaining officers. They often don’t have the budgets to compete on salary and have fewer career opportunities to offer. It’s sadly not uncommon for small departments to invest a lot of money into hiring and training a new officer, only to have the officer leave to a higher-paying department within a few years.

The more interesting and unique issue here is the City of Dixon’s apparent need to hire outside supervisors. It’s incredibly rare for police or sheriff departments to open a supervisor position to outside candidates. If it does happen, it’s almost always a very small department with relatively less-experienced officers who may not be ready for promotion.

As of September 6th, 2023, only three municipal police departments in California show external job openings for sergeant positions (Fort Bragg, Fortuna, and Suisun), according to the Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training. This is compared to hundreds of postings for police officer or deputy sheriff positions at almost every agency in the state.

A police sergeant needs to know the department’s operations, procedures, people and culture inside and out. It would be a challenging transition to take a supervisor role at a new department. That being said, if the city is offering the bonus to lateral officers, they should probably offer it to lateral sergeants as well. The Dixon City Council agreed on Tuesday night.