Highland Police Department seeking training reimbursement from officers who leave for other agencies
The Highland Police Department wants its money back from officers who go through the police academy at the department's expense and quickly leave for another agency. Currently, Highland officers are contractually required to reimburse the department for training and equipment costs, if they leave before three years of service. It's become more of an issue in recent months, as more new officers leave Highland.
Former chief Pete Hojnicki says officers shouldn't get a free ride on the town's dime. "We've invested over $35,500 in that person in 31 weeks, and then for them to walk out the door and just say, 'I don't want to do this anymore. I want to go somewhere else,' it's not being stewards of the town's money," Hojnicki told the town council during a study session Monday.
Beyond the cost, Hojnicki said one the department is given a spot at the police academy, it's difficult to get another one — further straining current officers while new ones wait for training.
But town council member Mark Schocke said he was shocked when the police department started suing its former officers over the reimbursements. "It's a bad policy," Schocke said. "It's basically saying that we don't value police officers and we don't value what they've done here, to go after them civilly. That's wild in my eyes."
He doesn't think people should be punished for finding a job that's a better fit.
Schocke threatened to cut next year's police budget and then proceeded to take aim at the Highland Police Commission. "It's an old boys network. That's exactly what we're dealing with," Schocke said. "It's a bunch of folks that have been on there for way too long making antiquated decisions."
They did seem to find some common ground, including the possibility of removing the reimbursement requirement for officers who leave law enforcement entirely.