Hollister police are the lowest paid in the region, according to a new report.
Police officers working in the county seat earn less than their counterparts in Capitola, Gilroy, Marina, Salinas, Seaside, Soledad and Watsonville.
Out of those agencies, Hollister ranked lowest for maximum monthly salary at $6,435.
“I wasn’t surprised,” said Staci Esqueda, president of the Police Officers Association, which commissioned the report. “We’re looking at a 25 percent deficit just to be at average and I don’t feel like what myself and my team provides is average service. We’re going out to provide the best service we can.”
Esqueda, a nine-year officer with the Hollister police force, said the survey was conducted because the association had an idea that local wages for officers were low, but they did not have the hard data until now.
According to the report, Salinas police officers brought in the highest monthly salary at $8,944. In terms of total compensation including benefits, Hollister was second to last at $9,414 with Soledad taking the last spot at $8,581. Salinas ranked highest for total compensation at $12,024.
Esqueda said nearby law enforcement agencies pay around $1,000 to $2,000 more in wages and benefits than the Hollister Police Department.
The wage discrepancy, Esqueda argues, makes it difficult to keep officers in Hollister. She said the department has lost eight officers to other agencies in the last five years. Two of those officers left last year.
“Hollister has its benefits as an agency. You can be a well-rounded officer and receive a lot of hands-on training,” said Esqueda. “The community is supportive unlike any other, especially given the current dynamics of the law enforcement profession.”
However, the low wages combined with a high cost of living in the region creates a dire situation, she said.
“It’s a double-edged sword. The cost of living has gone up over the last few years and we’re trying to compensate with overtime,” said Esqueda. “It’s a necessity for the department who needs staffing, but there’s a necessity for the officer to be able to provide food and care to their family and children.”
This is a negotiation year for the Hollister Police Officers Association and the group plans to work on getting their officers better compensation. The group already shared the study’s findings with the city council.
“We’re trying to have a conversation with the negotiation committees of both parties so we can come to some kind of resolution to be able to compensate officers in a way that better suits the services they provide,” Esqueda said.