NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — The New Bedford Police Department is offering $5,000 sign-on bonuses in an attempt to attract new recruits.

New Bedford Police Chief Paul Oliveira said the department has been short-staffed for awhile and has been struggling to recruit new officers.

The department currently employs 214 officers, though it budgets for 259 annually. That means the department needs to hire 45 more officers to be considered fully staffed.

Oliveira said the bonuses will be offered until the department “sees a substantial recovery in its staffing levels.”

Officers who are hired and receive the bonus must remain on the job for five years in order to retain it.

The police chief said a record number of New Bedford officers retired in January, which put a strain on the department’s remaining staff.

“The number one reason police officers are leaving departments is because of forced overtime,” he said.

Oliveira said he’s been monitoring and attempting to cut down how much overtime his officers work.

But it’s not the only reason officers are leaving, according to the police chief.

Oliveira said a number of officers have opted to downsize departments, which typically means moving from an urban community to a more suburban or rural one.

“We are taking critical steps necessary to replenish our staffing,” Oliveira said. “The hiring bonus is just one of several tools at our disposal, but it is an essential one.”

In addition to the sign-on bonus, the department is expanding its recruitment outreach to high schools and colleges.

Oliveira said the department recently hired a new recruitment officer as well, and new recruitment video is also in the works.

Customize Your Notifications: Choose which 12 News topics you want to be alerted about »