The president of the Fresno police union looks forward to working with new leadership at City Hall. Damon Kurtz, president of the Fresno Police Officers Association (FPOA) wants to make sure Fresno is a competitive place to attract new officers.

Currently, approximately 750 officers patrol the streets. But that is still under the budgeted goal of around 800. Kurtz says that at its low point, there were 696 officers as of January 2014. While 200 have been hired, more have left the department.

Why is the police department down? “(We) can’t hire fast enough, can’t find candidates. It is a statewide and nationwide epidemic to try and find recruits,” Kurtz tells GV Wire. “People just aren’t coming to the law enforcement profession right now.”  He also cited the increased scrutiny on police behavior over the last few years as a hindrance to recruiting and keeping officers.

Kurtz says they will have to be creative to recruit and retain police officers.” Either that comes through pay or benefit increases that lead people to that profession and make them want to stay.”

With Mayor Lee Brand now in charge of City Hall, Kurtz looks forward to working with the new administration. “I see that we will have a good relationship going forward.”

Brand’s stated goals during the campaign was to bring the department to 1,000 officers over a period of four to eight years.

City Hall will have to negotiate a new contract with the FPOA, which expires at the end of June. Kurtz says they are currently studying the issue. He says that surrounding departments have increased benefit packages which affects Fresno PD. “Most areas have caught up to us, if not surpassed us. That leads to people leaving to ‘greener pastures.”

E-mail David Taub

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