Officer Todd Williams started his career at the Fresno Police Department in the patrol unit. He worked long hours, having to respond to constant distress calls from around the city.
After working at Fresno PD for 18 years, Williams made the move to the Fresno State Police Department where he is also an officer in the patrol unit. After three years working at Fresno State, Williams has found the workload and work environment to be more manageable.
“The reason why I chose University of Fresno State over Fresno municipal is that it is nice,” said Williams. “It’s a different mentality here, it’s a large family.”
Williams’ desire to leave Fresno PD contrasts with a recent study, conducted by AdvisorSmith, that found Fresno to be one of the best cities to be a police officer out of 374 cities studied. These findings were based on an officer’s average annual salary, the cost of living index and job density. Though these data points reveal Fresno to be above the national average, the study did not analyze a Fresno police officer’s quality of life and workload.
According to Justin Saeheng, an analyst from AdvisorSmith, the research was centered around quantitative, empirical data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The research is meant to provide citizens with resources surrounding what areas will allow workers to make the most out of their careers. AdvisorSmith’s research, however, did not look into job demands or officer job satisfaction.
In Fresno, some police officers like Williams, who worked for Fresno PD for nearly 20 years, are leaving to work within other law enforcement agencies. President of the Fresno Police Officers’ Association Todd Fraizer said officers are leaving because the department is overworked and understaffed.
“The department is understaffed and is having a hard time keeping up with attrition,” said Fraizer. “We have officers doing double duties to make minimum staffing requirements.”
Fraizer said that Fresno is, on paper, a great place to be an officer, but it has faced innumerable difficulties related to attracting and retaining officers.
Not only are other local law enforcement agencies trying to recruit Fresno police officers, but also agencies out of Los Angeles, the Bay Area, other Valley agencies and private employers who have been able to hire officers at higher rates due to the United States’ progressing economy, according to Fraizer.
“We lose officers to private companies because they offer a better quality of life. Officers in the private industry work 9 to 5, but Fresno City officers are on call 24/7 between court arraignments, scheduled shifts and rounds,” said Fraizer. Understaffing has made the demands of the job even greater, he said.
Fresno PD, which currently employs around 800 officers, is meant to have over 900 officers, but the city has not been able to attract enough officers to fill these positions.
An attempt was made to contact a representative from the Fresno City Police Department, but it did not make anyone available to discuss staffing issues.
Fraizer said Fresno has been trying to fill these staff vacancies by increasing officer salaries, offering officers one of the most competitive retirement plans in California, competitive medical benefits as well as other fringe benefits like paid time off and overtime pay.
“We want to attract the top tier people and the city realizes they have to pay well to keep people working in this challenging environment, but it’s hard when we have to compete against other law enforcement agencies,” said Fraizer.
Fresno’s efforts, however, have yet to keep some officers like Williams who need a change of pace. Being a Fresno State police officer has provided Williams with that opportunity to slow down and connect with victims.
“The quality of life is a lot better here for me, not just personally but by speaking with other officers and the staff that we have,” said Williams. “This job, plugging into the quality of life here and with the quality of the job and the position, you can be very personable. In contrast to the city where you just go, go, go, go.”