Westminster PD now offering laterals $10,000 signing bonus

By Jessica Peralta

As part of the Westminster Police Department’s active recruitment efforts, the city recently approved a $10,000 signing bonus for qualifying laterals.

The one-time cash signing bonus will be distributed in two parts – half upon hire and half upon completion of the 18-month probation period.

“I think it’s a great program for our city to recruit experienced officers to our department,” said WPD Chief Ralph Ornelas, adding that the bonus actually saves money by bringing in experienced officers who will require less training and so less of the accompanying costs. “I think it’s well worth it because we get an experienced officer.”

Westminster Police Chief Ralph Ornelas talks about the agency and the officers who serve there.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The new signing bonuses follow the city council’s approval of raises for sworn employees in each of the years of the three-year labor contract. With the agency currently operating with 11 sworn employee vacancies – including two sergeant and nine officer positions – the WPD hopes to attract some new, experienced officers.

“I’m really thankful the mayor, the city council and the city manager approved this program,” Ornelas said, “because I think it makes us much more competitive.”

Sgt. Cord Vandergrift, who has been a police academy instructor for 15 years, said hiring experienced laterals can be a great asset to an agency.

“They’re a valued commodity because they’re already trained,” he said. “It’s always good to have a mix of young officers and experienced officers.”

Westminster PD headquarters located in the Westminster Civic Center.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Sgt. Mike Harvey, who lateraled to the WPD from the Costa Mesa Police Department in 2011, has accomplished much during his time in Westminster.

“I came over and felt like I fit right in,” he said. “When I first got here, my first full year I was nominated by my peers for Officer of the Year [in 2012].”

In 2015, he made it to the detectives bureau. After that, he was selected as a member of West County SWAT – for which he’s now a team leader. He then was promoted to corporal and then sergeant a couple of months later.

Because he’s bilingual – he has a degree in Spanish from Cal State San Marcos – he qualifies for the WPD’s bilingual pay rate, which gives him a little pay boost each month.

Westminster PD’s Fallen Heroes Memorial located outside the police department in the Westminster Courtyard.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

In addition to these perks, the agency offers other benefits, including a 21,000-square-foot Range and Safety Training Center, which houses a brand-new Simunitions house for simulation training as well as a state-of-the-art shooting range. The center is so state-of-the-art, in fact, that many outside agencies contract with the city to use the facility.

Ornelas added, as he joked with members of his senior command staff, that beyond everything else, it’s a fun work environment.

But on a more serious note, he said: “I pray that we get a good response from officers from other departments. … I think we have a lot to offer.”

Westminster PD’s Sgt. Cord Vandergrift, left, and Officer David Ramirez.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

To qualify for the signing bonus, the applicant must:

— Possess a basic POST certificate

— Have served a minimum of 12 months in a sworn position within a California law enforcement agency

— Currently serve, or have served within the previous 12 months, as a sworn police officer within a California law enforcement agency

— Have completed probation at the current or most recent agency

— Have not previously served as a police officer for the Westminster Police Department, unless authorized by the chief of police

For more information, click here.