OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It’s a problem across the nation for police departments right now, a lack of police officers. It’s now affecting our department here in Oklahoma City. 

The Oklahoma City Police Department are bringing on hiring efforts and has some big changes coming with new hiring incentives which include an increase in starting pay and bonuses. 

Oklahoma City hopes boosting starting pay for police recruits will get more officers on the streets. This week, the city council approved a historic 24% pay increase for police recruits, making the salary just under $62,000, plus a $10,000 sign on bonus. 

Oklahoma City Police said the money is needed to help fill over 150 vacant officer positions on the force right now. 

Oklahoma City’s Chief of Police said he hopes the money will go a long way to solve the problem and up recruitment numbers. 

“We will not lower our standards to try and get recruits. We’re going to do everything we can to try and make them well-paid, get good benefits, and just have them be involved in an organization that cares about them… Every police department is hiring not just in the state, but again in the country. And we’re all competing for the same individuals, you know, that are looking for police jobs. So, we have to do things to make ourselves competitive,” said Wade Gourley, Chief of Police, Oklahoma City Police Department.  

Not only will the new salary for police recruits be $61,700, current officers with 2 years’ experience will now start at $65,207, but must go through a 28-week academy. 

“We now have three police academies a year and they’re going to start in January, which we’ve got one starting here in just a couple of weeks, then in April and in August,” said Gourley.  

The department is also offering education and bilingual incentive pay. 

“We also have education incentives of $75 a month for an associate degree, $150 a month for a bachelor’s degree and $175 a month for a master’s degree. We have bilingual incentive pay for Spanish, Vietnamese and sign language up to $100 per pay period for advanced speakers,” said Gourley.  

Oklahoma City Police will also help those going through school.  

“We also have tuition reimbursement up to $150 a semester to help with those that are still working on getting their education,” said Gourley.  

Another benefit is a take-home car program for those who live in Oklahoma City or within 25 miles from city limits. 

“It allows folks the freedom to live in the areas that they want to live, but then also to still receive the benefit of having that vehicle and having that vehicle out in the community, even in different areas of jurisdiction, helps with visibility. It helps people see police officers more often and put more of those vehicles where they need to be in the public,” said Gourley.  

Plus, the best gear and equipment for officers.  

“We’re going to issue recruits the very best equipment. They don’t have to buy anything. Everything from their vests, to their plate carriers, their firearms, every bit of equipment that they could possibly need to perform the job,” said Gourley.  

This all comes after city leaders passed a new contract approving the recruiting efforts. 

Major Beto Balderrama with the Oklahoma City Police Department said everyone who lives in Oklahoma City will benefit from paying officers better. 

“It should be important for residents here because it’s going to benefit all of us. We’ve done a lot of research. We try to be responsible with these bonuses and the amount of pay and see what other agencies around the country are doing because it is very competitive,” said Beto Balderrama, Major Oklahoma City Police Department. 

Recruits must at least have a GED, be a US citizen and must be between 21 and 45 years old.