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Chief: Officers leaving for better pay, not office politics
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A number of Ceres police officers are hunting for jobs elsewhere.


Well that depends on who does the interpretation.

Recently the president of the local chapter of the NAACP, Frank Johnson, publicly mentioned the exodus of officers, hinting that officers are leaving due to the recent departure of Public Safety Department Director/Police Chief Art deWerk from city employment. Johnson, an ardent supporter of deWerk's that extends beyond his days with the city, also publicly questioned the qualifications of Brent Smith to replace him as acting police chief.

But Smith has a much less political take on conditions at police headquarters.

"Our guys are happy," said Smith. "But they're just going for better opportunities and now we're going to losing guys again every now and then because the economy's better and they want the opportunity. There's only so many promotions here. They go outside and move up real quickly, especially when they leave here as well trained as we've had them. In the last three or four years our guys have gone out and got master's degrees and bachelor's degrees and everything else."

The acting chief says officers have been "a little frustrated" with salary concessions and frozen salary steps.

"Up until 2008 we always had people leave because just being in this area they left for higher pay, more opportunity than Ceres Police Department could provide. But when the economic downturn happened, guys stayed in the department."

Retirements also play into the scenario.

"Depending on where I want to go work," said Smith, "I gotta look at the retirement."

Ceres Police offer a "way better retirement" than the Sheriff's Department, he said. The county offers at age 57 at a rate of two percent of annual salary per year of service while CPD offers three percent at age 50.

"The sheriff is going to have a hard time trying to get lateral good employees to work there," he commented.

Because the Valley is the last region of California to recover from the recession, the Bay Area and Sacramento areas have recovered faster and departments are better off. They are hiring more and paying more.

"So far I've had two or three guys go to Mountain View. They're making $50 an hour and our guys here are making $25, $26. You cannot compete with that. They have barracks over there you can stay in during the week and still live here."

Others, like Sgt. John King, have opted for South Lake Tahoe, which not only offers breath-taking scenery but is rich with tourist activity. Others have made their way to Livermore.

"You can't compete with Livermore pay," said Smith. "They've got a much better economy."