FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- Like so many police departments across the country, the Fremont Police Department is facing a shortage of officers. The department has 18 officer vacancies, which is almost 10 percent of the police force.
Lieutenant Matthew Snelson says Fremont PD used to get 3,000 applicants a year. It's down to about 1,000 applicants now.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average number of full-time U.S. police officers in 2016 dropped 11% since 1997.
To attract new applicants, the city is now offering a $10,000 signing bonus. And not just for new recruits, but officers who come from other cities and counties as well.
"It's important for us to get to full staffing. So we are trying to incentivize on the front end to make it easier for people to start their police career with us," says Lt. Snelson.
He says competition for talent is tough, especially in a strong economy. He adds that some of the backlash against law enforcement, be it officer-involved fatal shootings that capture national headlines to attacks on cops, is another obstacle.
"It's hard to hire police officers right now," Lt. Snelson says. "The national dialogue on policing, as people are looking it and deciding on what to do for a career, I do think people are opting to go a different direction than policing."
"It is a concern. I think any time when there is a decrease in support, you are always a little bit concerned," says Fremont Mayor Lily Mei about the police vacancies.
Mei says that along with the $10,000 signing bonus, going after new recruits means trying some new strategies as well.
Part of that effort includes a slick new website with catchy tag lines designed to attract a younger generation to law enforcement.
"It is a different approach. When you look at the hiring and some of the people we are approaching, such as millennials, it's important for us to be flexible and have a sense of humor," says Mayor Mei.
The $10,000 signing bonus will be paid out in two parts: $5,000 at the time of hire and $5,000 after successfully completing the probation period.
The Fremont Police Department has also streamlined and accelerated the hiring process.
Fremont Police Department offering $10K signing bonus amid shortage of officers