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As crime spikes, Visalia PD looking to hire more officers

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Crime is spiking, but the Visalia Police Department is down a handful of officers. (KFSN)

Crime is spiking, but the Visalia Police Department is down a handful of officers.

It's challenging to find qualified applicants, but Chief Jason Salazar says he can't just sit back and wait for them. "I think we gotta go out looking for good people and so we've been trying to be aggressive on our social media to recruit folks but we're also kind of doing some things different," Salazar said.

Different means no longer waiting for cadets to finish the police academy, but hiring them, and putting them through the program so they're ready to hit the streets on graduation day. The department currently sponsors two cadets at the Tulare-Kings Peace Officer Academy at College of the Sequoias. Daniel Gonzalez is one of them. He started as a Visalia police explorer at 14. "I grew up with Visalia PD, so for me, moving onward, and becoming an officer was just the obvious step, it's what I'm really excited about," Gonzalez said.

"Having a department that's willing to make a commitment with you and invest in your future, it means a lot," said the other Visalia Police recruit, Blaine Gamache.

The Visalia Police Department has a close connection with the Tulare-Kings Police Academy. Its director, Kevin Mizner, says over the last few years, more and more police departments are starting to sponsor cadets. "They find people within their community that have the background have the talent and the skills that they believe necessary and will fit the culture of their organization," Mizner said.

Right now, 21 of the 52 cadets already have a job lined up, which is far more than past classes. Most have signed on with a local agency while some will go north or south. But if they want to stay in Visalia, they'll have to meet the chief's criteria. He's looking for officers with good character, are good at solving problems, and above all, have a desire to serve the community they protect. "It says a lot to come and work for a community that values its police agency and we value it as well," Salazar said.

Visalia Police are also hiring communications officers. Those interested should contact Sergeant Damon Maurice. Call him at 559-713-4216 or e-mail him at damon.maurice@visalia.city.

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