Commentary: Costa Mesa can easily attract police recruits

Despite the fact that 118 Costa Mesa police officers receive more than $150,000 in annual total compensation, Police Chief Tom Gazsi claims "its proving to be a challenge … to find qualified, suitable candidates."

Despite the fact that these public servants are entitled to an unparalleled pension that permits retirement at age 50 with 90% of salary (at 57 with 81% for non-transfer rookies) and the city even pays the employee share of retirement to CalPERS, the department insists it's difficult to recruit quality officers.

Despite record-setting police pensions that have more than doubled in the past 10 years to a current $111,000 a year for new retirees, we can't find quality recruits.

Despite job security without the risk of layoff, suitable officers just cannot be recruited.

Despite generous sick, holiday and vacation time that permits 10 paid weeks off for a 20-year employee, new hires feel entitled to even more, and consequently, we just can't compete for suitable candidates.

Despite unique perks that pay 2.5% of salary for the burden of having to wear a uniform on the job (the horror), quality applicants, like those serving our country, are nowhere to be found.

Despite thousands applying for open Costa Mesa police positions, we are told that virtually none of these applicants are qualified. In the year before contract negotiations, our public unions just can't find perfect candidates.

This is not rocket science. Nor are we recruiting rocket scientists. To be eligible for hire, one need only be at least 21 years old, a high school graduate and a nonuser of marijuana for two years. Committing a major crime is disqualifying but past probation and minor crimes aren't.

Hires then have to attend a 28-week police academy. Yet with such "rigorous" standards, our union professionals say that candidates meeting their "ideal" requirements can't be found and that public safety is at risk.

Despite receiving the highest pay and pension in our city's history, ever-higher pay is demanded, because they simply can't find applicants willing take a vow of poverty to work for Costa Mesa.

Despite the end of two wars, the downsizing of our military and the return of tens of thousands of experienced troops to the U.S., the department can't recruit suitable candidates to such a political war zone as Costa Mesa.

Despite the worst economic crisis in 80 years, with tens of millions looking for work, these officials insist on higher pay because quality officers can't be recruited.

In advance of contract negotiations, who are we to believe: those with the facts or those using the tried and true union playbook for securing rich salaries through cries of poverty and demands for public safety?

Attorney TIM SESLER is a Costa Mesa planning commissioner.

[For the record: An earlier version of this post misspelled the writer's last name.]

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