BELLEVUE, Wash. -- The city of Bellevue is taking an unprecedented step to address a critical staffing shortage. Earlier this week, the city council approved a $16,000 hiring bonus for experienced police officers that join the Bellevue Police Department from another agency. “That’s a huge number and as far I know, it’s the largest amount in the region trying to recruit qualified, experienced police officers to come work for us," said Officer Seth Tyler.
The department currently has 13 positions ready to fill immediately but 40 jobs will be available overall due to retirements and other vacancies. Bellevue Police are hoping the large bonus attracts both local veteran officers and those from other states. The bonus money would help with moving expenses and to offset the cost of living here. To qualify, applicants need to have 2 years of full time experience as a sworn officer.
"The benefit to the citizens and to the taxpayers is that your going to get an experienced police officer out patrolling much more quickly than you would had we just hired an entry level applicant that can take over a year to train," said Officer Tyler.
Officer Nicholas Roche transferred to Bellevue Police last year from the Honolulu Police Department. His path into law enforcement was unusual. "Before I was a police officer, I was an acrobat with Cirque Du Soleil," he said.
Video shows him performing the Cube Alegria in Japan in 2005 as Nico Roche. He met his wife during the show . The two moved to Hawaii where she was from to start a family. After having two kids, he says they wanted to find a more affordable place to settle down. “We checked the Pacific NW area and found Bellevue Police Department in an area where we can buy a house and they have really good schools," he said.
Officer Roche received a $5,000 signing bonus which he says helped with moving and travel expenses occurred during the hiring and testing process. Some days, he says working patrol gives him the same adrenalin rush he got while performing. "The exception is I don’t have to do a final bow at the end of the day. No one’s clapping for me when I do something good," said Officer Roche.
While the two jobs may seem far apart, Officer Roche says the traveling helped prepare him. "I was meeting with a lot of different cultures and a lot of different situations and I had to adapt and I think this is the thing that can really help. When you are police officer you have to adapt to every situation, you never know what you are going to get into," he said.