The Ceres Police Department has hired a new patrol officer and a new police dispatcher but is still scrambling to fill other vacant positions.
Jeffery Godfrey, a Merced County law enforcement veteran, was sworn in as a police officer last week. Also new to the department and a law enforcement position is full-time police dispatcher Daniel Stanfield.
The department still has a lot of positions yet to fill, according to Captain Patrick Crane. Five vacant positions are in immediate need of filling plus an additional two officers are expected to retire by March. One of those vacancies will be filled with a new officer to be sworn in on Nov. 19, a lateral move from the Los Banos Police Department.
Ceres Police Department is authorized to have 52 sworn officers.
Complicating the acquisition of hiring new officers is the closure of police academies because of COVID-19.
“I don’t have a new influx of academy graduates who are out looking for jobs so right now we’re open and we don’t have a whole lot of applicants in there,” said Captain Crane.
And because Ceres’ pay scale doesn’t interest many officers looking to make a move over from a larger agency, the pickings have been slim. That’s why some of the officers are coming from smaller Merced County departments which pay less competitively.
At least one Ceres police sergeant with 20 years of experience is looking to retire and leave California because of the cultural shift against police.
In the meantime, Ceres is coping with the vacancies by running up overtime costs and reducing special assignments.
Born in Yuba City but raised in Modesto, Godfrey graduated from Davis High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Management and has a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership.
His journey in law enforcement has been anything but traditional. He started in in 1998 as a reserve with the Hughson Police Department. He was sworn in as a full-time sheriff’s deputy in 2000 and left in 2011 to go to UC Merced as a sergeant. Godfrey left law enforcement in 2015 to work in the private sector, but maintained his POST status working as a reserve with Livingston Police in Merced County. He became a full-time officer with Livingston in 2018.
Jeff and his wife of 15 years, Patty, have three children: Tyler, 26, Amy, 22 and Joei, 20. He enjoys running, working out, playing softball and serving with his wife at church. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Special Olympics of Northern California, assigned to work with law enforcement agencies in Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties.
Stanfield was in the process of being installed as a reserve dispatcher but a position opened before he finished his background check. Daniel was born and raised in Modesto and graduated from Beyer High School. He is the son of Modesto Police Lt. Steve Stanfield.
He enjoys spending time with his baby son and his girlfriend, Crystal, and watching football and playing fantasy football.
Crane said the department is seeking to full another full-time dispatch with one applicant undergoing background checks. The department has been allotted 11 dispatchers but is losing the dispatch supervisor. That position will be filled within by a senior dispatcher, which will cause a new vacancy.
Hiring dispatchers is not an easy chore for police management.
“They wash out in training,” said Captain Crane. “We get a lot of people that are interested in it. They’ll put in it. Some are just curious about law enforcement and they want to get into it. Once they see it’s not you see on TV, we do lose some.”
He said the pressure of dealing with callers under the duress of emergencies is too much for some to handle.
“You do have to have a certain temperament to do it. Some of the conversations that they have to have on the phone with people that are calling in, especially if they’re upset, you’ve got to have some thick skin when you deal with those types of people. It’s not personal; they’re not yelling at you as the dispatcher, they’re yelling because they’re upset. And sometimes people have a hard time making that distinction between the two and they take it personally.”
Hiring a police officer takes a long time. Officers applying from other police agencies have to undergo three months of psychiatric evaluation, medical clearance and background checks and two months for a training program.
An applicant who has no police experience is subjected to three months of academy training. Hiring to being on the job can take eight to nine months.