New police officers in Montgomery County, Maryland, are eligible for $20,000 in signing bonuses, officials announced Wednesday.
The bonuses, which will be paid in installments, will be offered to the next recruiting class, which is scheduled to begin in June, according to a county news release.
The announcement comes amid what county officials called a national police recruiting shortage, which is also affecting most law enforcement agencies in the region.
“This signing bonus is going to put us on a level playing field with competing jurisdictions for potential police officer candidates,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones in a statement. “Without these bonuses, we would be at a disadvantage.”
Jones and other police officials testified before a Montgomery County Council committee last week, telling council members the department is down 129 officers from budgeted staffing levels and sharing with council members the department’s difficulties filling recruiting classes in recent years.
Montgomery County Police is NOW offering a $20,000 HIRING BONUS for police officer candidates and all lateral/comparative compliance candidates as well.
Are you ready to answer the call?
-Apply online at https://t.co/nUPA5jJ4rb
-Contact a recruiter at 240-773-5310 #MCPNews pic.twitter.com/Sq24bcyA69
— Montgomery County Department of Police (@mcpnews) February 22, 2023
According to a report prepared by the council’s Public Safety Committee, resignations and retirements jumped 64% last year, while the number of people applying to become police officers has fallen 38% since 2017.
Citing anecdotal reports, the size of recruit classes has fallen from as many as 80 to 15 recently, one official said.
The funding for the bonuses initially comes from savings from personnel vacancies within the department, but rolling out the program fully will require approval from the county council.
New recruits will not get all $20,000 right up front. It will be paid in stages. The first payment of $2,000 will come after a new recruit’s first day as a Montgomery County employee.
The signing bonuses were negotiated with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #35, which represents county police officers.
“We hope that the county council approves these much-needed increases so we can again be a competitive agency when it comes to wages and benefits,” said Lee Holland, FOP president, in a statement.
“By increasing the starting salaries for police officers, we have moved Montgomery County into a better recruiting position,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “I thank Montgomery County Police Department and FOP leaders for agreeing to this new bonus because I think it will make Montgomery County more attractive to new recruits.”
Assistant Police Chief Darren Francke told council members last week that a similar $20,000 hiring bonus in Anne Arundel County had led to success in filling a recent recruit class.