STOCKTON - Shoppers in Stockton will pay a higher sales tax beginning Tuesday and Chief of Police Eric Jones couldn't be happier.
The higher tax, 9 cents on the dollar, will pay for 120 new officers to be added over the next three years, but that won't be easy to accomplish.
Jones will struggle to get those positions filled because Stockton keeps losing so many officers to retirement or to other cities that offer higher pay.
"I do believe we'll get to 120 but frankly in a three-year period, it's a tall order. One of my greatest challenges is to fill 40 each year over the next three years," Jones said.
The police chief said other departments are experiencing the same difficulties because it's so difficult for potential officers to pass the physical, mental, psychological and background tests.
"It's really difficult for all law enforcement in this day and age to recruit top candidates. It's very competitive out there right now," Jones said.
Stockton's bankruptcy is playing a big role in the hiring issue because pay and benefits for officers have been reduced. Police union leader Katherine Nance is hopeful a more attractive deal can be negotiated between the union and the city this summer to keep more officers in Stockton.
Currently Stockton has 350 officers. The department is budgeted to have 365. With a sales tax increase of 3/4 of a cent that begins Tuesday, the city will have the funds to pay 485 officers in three years.