The New Castle County Police Department is offering a new signing bonus to pre-certified officers as they attempt to stunt a recent decline in the amount of members of their police force.

Police Chief Col. Vaughn Bond said New Castle County is offering a $10,000 signing bonus to pre-certified officers in an attempt to speed-up a hiring process for a force that has seen 26 officers resign or retire already this year while four more retirements pending.

"We bypass the police academy, which is six months long. They would do an abbreviated [field training] period, and once they complete that, they will be able to go in-service and provide us some of the relief that we desperately need right now in the patrol division."

Bond said the idea isn't new to Delaware, noting they borrowed the idea from Middletown, and that it can help make switching forces easier for some officers.

"If they come to us, they are going to be taking a pay cut because they will be starting at the entry salary level. What we were hoping is that by offering the signing bonus, it would offset some of the loss in pay they would experience by joining our agency."

Bond said since they started offering the signing bonus, six showed interest, but four did not qualify. The other two are going through the hiring process.

"They still have to undergo the background checks, so there's no guarantee that we will be hiring them."

New Castle County PD is currently sitting at 366 active officers with 22 working through a police academy whose members are set to graduate in January 2021; they're trying to offset the potential 30 losses.

They are already posting for a new academy, and Vaughn said they have already received 176 applicants, but their hiring average implies that might net 10-15 officers, so supplementing new blood with experienced officers from other agencies will help.

The $10,000 signing bonus would be applied once an officer is hired, but they must work for New Castle County for two years or have to pay the money back.

The money for the bonus isn't coming from federal CARES Act money, which has strict guidelines for spending.

The money isn’t coming from the Coronavirus Relief Fund/CARES Act Funding, which has stringent guidelines. Instead, the money is coming from salary and benefits saving the county incurred over the last year, a county spokesman said.

"It is vital that we attract officers as recruiting for police has proven difficult across the country. We want to make sure we have our staffing levels where they need to be in order to keep police services functioning as they have been," said Brian Cunningham, a spokesman for NCC.