Protecting an investment

Published 1:13 am Saturday, January 19, 2008

By Staff
Better late than never.
Washington’s City Council did something this week that should result in saving taxpayers’ money. It signed off on a move that would require police officers the city hires and trains to reimburse the city for training and equipment expenses if those officers leave the Washington Police Department before completing a two-year tour of duty. For years, people have joined the city’s police force, received city-paid training and left shortly thereafter to work for law-enforcement agencies that pay more than the city’s police force.
The city’s investment in these police officers paid off, but for other police agencies. Training and equipping police officers isn’t cheap. It makes sense for the city to protect its financial investment in officers it trains and equips.
Applicants seeking to work as police officers for the city and be trained and equipped to do that job will be required to sign an agreement that spells out what the city’s responsibilities are when it comes to training and equipping those applicants. It also spells out what applicants are required to do if they leave the city’s police force before serving two years.
If the city is willing to hire a person and train and equip that person to serve as a police officer, that person should be willing to make a commitment to serve that city and its taxpayers long enough so the city and taxpayers recoup their investment in that person. It’s not equitable or fair for the city to spend the money needed to train and equip a police officer, only to see that police officer head to another police agency that benefits from getting a trained officer without having to bear the burden of paying for that training.
In other words, if an applicant doesn’t pass the training course, decides not to work for the city after being trained or chooses work somewhere else before his or her two-year term is completed, the applicant must reimburse the city for training-related and equipment-related expenditures.
Without the agreement, the city and taxpayers would continue to be, for lack of a better phrase, taken advantage of by some people who view working for the city as a police officer as means to getting a better-paying job with another police agency. These people get hired, get trained and get gone.
Washington isn’t the only city, town or county that hires and trains law-enforcement officers, only to see those officers head to police agencies that pay more. There’s nothing wrong with a police officer wanting to make as much money as possible. There is something wrong when that officer doesn’t give the city, town or county that hired him or her full value for the training and equipment that city, town or county paid for to put that officer on the street.
Other cities have had similar policies in place for years.
With this agreement, Washington protects itself and its taxpayers.
It’s never too late to provide that kind of protection.