SHPD looking for a few good men, women

By Nick Diamantides, Staff Writer

If you are considering a career in law enforcement, now would be a good time to contact the Signal Hill Police Department. The department is looking for a few good men and women to fill two new positions as well as vacancies expected in the next five years.
“Two years ago, the city council agreed to increase the number of SHPD officers by six, giving us a total of 37 officers,” said Police Chief Tom Sonoff. “We have 35 right now and are trying to fill the other two positions, but we also have a number of expected retirements in the next several years.”
“For the next five years, there are probably going to be two or three people retiring each year,” added Police Captain Mary Risinger, explaining that the SHPD has begun an intensive recruitment process in hopes of avoiding understaffing problems caused by vacancies that are not immediately filled.
Part of that process is the recent distribution of the SHPD’s fast action recruitment video. The video shows different scenes of Signal Hill police officers in action while words describing the department’s selling points flash across the scene. Those points include: Diverse Work Force, Full Medical and Dental, Community Supported, Bilingual Pay, Lateral Transfers and Training & Development, to name a few.
The video was made by Emmy Award-winning video maker Jeff Trujillo under a contract with the City of Signal Hill. Recently, the manager of the local Best Buy store agreed to play the video on display models of TV sets in the store on weekends. The SHPD is also hoping that two other local stores will agree to do the same. “We just want to get the word out to as many people as possible,” Sonoff explained.
The SHPD provides a wide range of services to the community. The department’s current annual operating budget is $7.5 million and it has a total of 19 civilian employees and 35 sworn officers. Assignments of sworn personnel include patrol, traffic, detectives, auto theft task force and community police officer.
Starting in January 2008, police recruits will have a base salary range of $55,789 to $74,762. Lateral police officers will have a base salary range of $58,578 to $74,762. SHPD’s salary/benefits package is competitive with other local police agencies, but that is not always evident to people looking for a career in law enforcement.
“It’s difficult to compare the salaries and benefits of different police departments,” Sonoff emphasized. “Some police departments front load all their money into straight salary, while others, like us, might be lower on straight salary but higher on benefits.” He explained that in some police departments, officers have to pay for part of their retirement and medical/dental benefits, but the SHPD pays for those benefits itself, with no charge to the officers. He added that SHPD officers get lifetime medical benefits.
Risinger, who oversees the SHPD’s recruitment program, noted that one of her challenges was educating people who are deciding which agency to join. “Some think they are going to get paid more working for another police department, but then they have to give part of their salary back for medical, dental and retirement benefits,” she said, explaining that SHPD officers’ take-home pay is often higher than some other local departments.
SHPD sends its recruits to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Academy for a six-month training course, during which the recruits are paid the starting salary listed above. After that, they are assigned a 3/12 patrol schedule, and the department offers education incentives that accelerate the pay raise process.
Sonoff stressed that one of the SHPD’s selling points was its size. “You can get lost in big departments and become just a number,” he said. “We are a small department and have more of a family working atmosphere.” He added that both the city council and the local residents strongly support the SHPD, which makes it easier for officers to carry out their duties.
For more information about a career with the SHPD, phone (562) 989-7234.

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