The Brownwood City Council unanimously approved an incentive package aimed at bringing more qualified candidates to join the police department as well as a procedure process for incoming officers.

Among the changes approved by the city council was increasing a sign-on bonus as well as creating a cadet classification and probationary officer classification that police officials believe will attract better candidates and establish a career path for those incoming candidates.

“[Shortage of police officers] is the most important item that needs to be addressed for the police department at this time,” Brownwood City Manager Emily Crawford said. “There are a couple of different ways that we can recruit officers that currently we’re not able to do.”

In establishing a cadet classification, the city creates an avenue where non-licensed police officers who passed an entrance exam and background check can attend the police academy, then join the BPD upon graduation. Until graduation, the officers would work as an hourly employee making 15 percent less than a full-time, licensed officer.

“It’s not a new concept. Other departments do this on a regular basis,” Crawford said. “As far as the cost to the city, there is really no increased cost to the city because we’re budgeting for these positions at a full-time wage for the entire year. Having that position vacant does mean we have the funds assigned in the budget to pay for that position.”

In regards to the probationary classification, those officers are already licensed but have not worked for an agency before or have less than one year of experience. Crawford said she sought to create this classification so to create an incentive plan for those officers. She added the council adopted a $5,000 incentive plan more than five years ago and it is no longer competitive enough to attract candidates.

“For a police officer with more than one year experience, (the sign-on bonus) be increased to $7,000 with half of it to be paid upon employment with the second half after their one-year anniversary for the city,” Crawford said. “For the probationary officer, with less than one year experience, we would drop that to $2,500 and for the cadet they would receive $2,500 upon completion of the academy. The idea is to help them cover those costs they have incurred in housing and other costs to attend.”

The council also:

Held a public hearing for voluntary annexation for 109.67 acres of land owned by Micam Development LLC into city limits. Authorized hot mixing paving on streets near Coggin Avenue and East Elementary. Approved purchase of a new generator using funds from a grant that would service the 9-11 system.