Another vacancy in the ranks of the Ceres Police Department has been filled but the quest is on to fill three others as jurisdictions feel the pain of being the training ground for higher-paying Bay Area cities.
Ceres Police Chief Brent Smith feels Friday's addition of a new officer when Barjinder "Vick" Singh, 27, is a score since he is fluent in Hindi, Punjabi and English languages. That will enable the department to have a way to communicate with those from India who don't speak English well.
"Punjabi is a very popular language here in Ceres," said Chief Smith. "I think we have a very high population of Sikhs in the community, a lot of folks live over in the Eastgate area."
The area attracts many because of the Sikh Temple miles down Hatch Road near Hughson, he added.
Singh decided to leave the Hayward Police Department where he has worked nearly six months as a patrol officer, preferring a closer commute from his Patterson home. He said there are more important things than making more money, like working for a department with a good culture, especially one closer to home.
"Some people do look at making a lot of money and for some people it's a love for the profession, it's about enjoying what you're doing," said Singh who earned a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from California State University, Stanislaus. "Ceres is unique though. I can be used by the department as a resource talking to English community or either Middle-Eastern community. I wanted to be a part of that."
Singh was born in India and came to the U.S. in 2004.
He said while many from India living here do speak English, speaking in a native language lends itself to better and more thorough communication, especially when relating details of a crime.
"It's great to be working nearby," said Officer Singh. "As far as a commute goes, farther away it takes a toll on you."
Chief Smith expressed frustration of continually losing officers to cities which pay better because of higher tax bases.
"Every time I sort of get caught up, folks leave towards the Bay Area," said Smith.
Ceres is no different from the rest of the Valley, which has found it training officers and losing them for communities like Livermore, Tracy, Mountain View and Roseville which are seeing speedier economic recovery and adding officers. Smith said he recently was told by the Stockton police chief that he is dealing with 100 openings for officers.
"This is something the entire Central Valley is facing," said Smith, "because you can make so much more money elsewhere. It's very active over here in the Valley for a police officer. They get very good experience. They get very good training and so they're very marketable. I mean if you are a Bay Area city, are you going to hire someone with the experience from here in the Central Valley or are you going to hire a brand-new employee? You can pick and choose who you want to hire because you pay the most money."
Some departments like Mountain View are starting out their patrol officers at $108,000 a year. Most officers from the Valley cannot afford to buy homes near the Bay so they either commute or stay in dorms or barracks provided by the departments.
Smith said he is accepting applications from lateral officers who have worked with a police agency for over 12 months with a basic POST certificate and those who recently graduated from a police academy.
"We're working on hiring recruits by the end of the year," said Smith.