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A Galt police officer performs a sobriety test during an Every 15 Minutes demonstration.

Looking to attract qualified police officer candidates, Galt Police Department is launching a program to sponsor recruits through their police academy training.

Police Capt. Richard Small said law enforcement hasn’t been immune to the recent drop in labor force participation often nicknamed the “Great Resignation,” and potential new officers have been tough to find.

“There was a time in the past where you’d have potentially hundreds of candidates competing for one police officer opening because there was that much demand for people trying to get those kind of jobs,” Small said. But the competition has shifted from the applicants to hiring agencies, which are offering various benefits to entice qualified candidates.

Additionally, the reduced applicant pool means that those who do apply often don’t meet the high standards for law enforcement. Their record needs to be relatively clean, they need to pass a psychological evaluation, and then they have to complete a six-month stint at police academy “that’s going to be both physically and mentally demanding.”

“There’s a lot of hurdles to get to that position of police officer,” Small said.

So, to draw in more prospective officers, the department is offering to cover the academy expenses of up to four police officer recruits, as well as paying their wages during the process. Small said the department is especially interested in finding local candidates: “Some people who were born and raised here or in Lodi, or Stockton or Elk Grove, Herald or Wilton – you know, in the region – maybe they’re interested in serving their community in that way.”

The initial requirements to apply are a California driver’s license with a satisfactory driving record, the equivalent of a high school diploma, completion of a physical agility exam, and a score of at least 40 on the POST Entry-Level Law Enforcement Test Battery (PELLET-B) exam. The department will host a PELLET-B sitting and a physical agility exam in February. Afterward, the interview process will start, and the academy training would begin in May or June.

Character is the “most important” trait for recruits, Small said. He noted that the academy and the department’s field training will cover many aspects of police work.

“What we can’t train is character, so we’re looking for people who have exemplified high character traits in their personal life, so honesty, integrity, self-discipline,” Small said.

Asked why aspiring officers should choose the Galt police and stay in the long term, Small pointed to the agency’s work environment and the professional opportunities of a smaller agency.

“Everybody that is working for this department right now is committed to what we’re doing. They believe in the mission that we’re trying to complete, and everybody supports each other through that.”

Beyond routine patrols, the department has detectives, spots on a regional SWAT team and on a regional hostage-negotiation team, a drone program, and a school resource officer program. Small said officers will get more chances to work in these programs because of the department’s size.

“In my just over 13 years here now, I’ve been given remarkable opportunities to do a bunch of different things that I might not have gotten the opportunity to do anywhere else,” Small said.

Another contributor to the shortage of police recruits, Small said, is that “law enforcement has been in the headlines a lot over the past couple years, some of it good, a lot of it very critical,” Small said, “and some of that criticalness rightfully so.”

Though some qualified people may see those stories and want to serve their community in other ways, Small felt they would change their minds once they saw “what specifically this department's about.”

“As we do a better job of engaging our community and having those conversations about what law enforcement is about, what it should be about, where we’ve failed, where we’ve succeeded, and having those honest conversations, I think we’ll do a better job of bringing in better candidates.”

The “police officer recruit” job listing can be found online at governmentjobs.com/careers/galtca.