Overland Park offers signing bonus to attract police officers

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Law enforcement agencies across the metro increasingly are finding themselves competing with each other to hire police officers.

Overland Park has new incentives to fill 13 open jobs protecting and serving the public.

A strong economy has resulted in fewer people without jobs. And it's also making it harder for cities to find qualified police officers.

At the end of the month the city will begin offering a signing bonus: $3,500 paid over two years, to those who begin working as police officers.

Law enforcement isn't always viewed as an attractive career. Agencies have to overcome the reality that a police officer's actions often are reviewed and scrutinized by a skeptical public.

And the Black Lives Matter movement has bred a mistrust of police officers among some segments of the population.

"I think some of the negative media coverage of high profile events over the last several years has certainly impacted our ability to recruit people," Overland Park police chief Frank Donchez said. "Whether it be people think this isn’t a good profession or it’s people that think it might be a good thing to do but they don’t want to be second guessed on national TV for doing their job. I think we’ve got a lot of different headwinds out there."

Grandview, Mo., offers a $3,000 bonus over three years to cover costs of academy training for new recruits.

Other suburban agencies report recent hiring that's made them fully staffed, including Smithville, Mo., Grain Valley, Mo., and Prairie Village, Kan.

Olathe, Kan., has hired 24 officers in the last eight months.

So much hiring taking place that agencies often have to boost pay to prevent losing officers to neighboring cities. In Overland Park, starting pay is just more than $43,000 a year and tops out at more than $75,000 for a police officer rank.