NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford officials have announced a new $5,000 signing bonus for incoming city police officers as an incentive to encourage applications amid a hiring crisis for the department.

The city's police union has said that the department is operating at decreased staffing levels, with 211 filled positions out of a budget for 258 police officers.

Mayor Jon Mitchell and Police Chief Paul Oliveira revealed the new bonus in a press release on Monday.

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According to the release, the bonuses will be offered until the New Bedford Police Department "sees a substantial recovery in its staffing levels."

Any new officers who accept the signing bonus will be required to stay with the department for at least five years, the release noted.

"As has been widely reported, police departments across the country are facing staffing shortages as they struggle to recruit and retain officers and unfortunately, New Bedford has not been spared," Mitchell said.

"Although the department has intensified its recruiting efforts and taken steps to utilize existing manpower more efficiently, we need to do more," he added.

"Hiring bonuses are an important tactic in our efforts to hire police officers in the current environment," Oliveira said.

"This hiring bonus is just one of several tools at our disposal, but it is an essential one."

Oliveira noted that New Bedford police are producing a new recruitment video, and the department is also hosting a practice civil service exam with potential recruits.

The department is also conducting outreach at high school and college events.

"We are taking critical steps necessary to replenish our staffing," Oliveira stated.

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