Abby Carroll for Community News Service
Shelburne will offer $10,000 to new police officers and dispatchers over their first two years on the job as part of a new retention and recruitment program.
The Shelburne Selectboard June 28 unanimously approved the program, which gives extra money to both new and recent hires in the town police department. The plan went into immediate effect and will cost an estimated $207,500.
“It’s that recruitment that’s going to get them in the door,” police chief Mike Thomas said. “The retention will hopefully keep them here.”
The new initiative will give certified officers and dispatchers a $5,000 sign-on bonus, plus added bonuses if they stay longer. The same goes for those who are uncertified but plan to go through academy and training.
The program comes after departments across Vermont have struggled to maintain staffing in recent years. In the wake of mass unrest after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd in 2020, police actions have come under more scrutiny than ever before, and some state and local leaders say that has affected staffing across Vermont.
But Thomas believes the program can help reverse that trend. Shelburne has seen an exodus of officers over the last few years.
The hope is the program provides officers and dispatchers with an incentive to work in Shelburne.
Thomas was named police chief in early June several months after the town parted ways with embattled police chief Aaron Noble, who came under fire last winter for not being available to handle patrol shifts and not responding to phone calls, texts and other messages in a department that had seen a mass exodus of personnel.
Thomas said the program could bring the department back to full staffing levels and help reduce overtime hours for current officers and dispatchers. The department would ideally have between 12 and 15 officers, he said, but right now only five full-time officers. A sixth officer is in training, the chief said
And, on Monday, July 18, former Richmond police chief Kyle Kapitanski started his first day on the job. He came to the Shelburne department, he said, for better pay and higher future pay scales.
Along with the $5,000 sign-on bonus, certified police and dispatchers will receive a $2,500 retention bonus after 12 months and another $2,500 bonus 24 months after their hire date.
Uncertified officers who plan to become certified will also receive a $5,000 sign-on bonus after completing the police academy, field training and a probationary period. They’ll get the same $5,000 in retention bonuses after 24 months on the job. The same goes for uncertified dispatchers.
The town will also offer funds to recently hired officers and dispatchers. The program aims to offer recent hires dating back to March 1, 2022, the recruitment bonus, and all existing officers the retention bonus. As of June 1, town officers and dispatchers who have not already received a recruitment or retention bonus will receive $2,500 by the end of the month.
If they remain employed in good standing, they will receive another $2,500 by June 30, 2023, and another $2,500 by the same date the following year. The bonuses will be prorated to anyone not serving full time.
In their June 28 discussion, selectboard members noted that the need for officers and dispatchers is widespread and that competition is fierce. Municipal and state departments across Vermont have struggled to keep full staff. The Vermont State Police had 19 vacant positions in 2020, 41 vacant positions in 2021 and 48 vacant positions so far this year.
The bonus program will help make Shelburne’s department more desirable to potential recruits, officials said, and it is modeled after programs in Williston and Burlington.
The first year of the program will be funded by the regular town budget, while the second and third years will be funded by American Rescue Plan Act funds.
“It’s nothing that we take lightly, nothing that any of us are enthusiastic about,” selectboard member Matt Wormser said about the cost. “But the market is what the market is.”
Categories: Local government