FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Over 30 new officers were sworn into the Fresno Police Department on Friday morning at the Saroyan Theater.

Chief Paco Balderrama officially swore in 28 officers, recruits, and three police officer laterals. There were also five promotions to sergeant.

The police department has 851 funded positions. With the additions from Friday, the department now was 786 filled with 65 vacancies.

“For any police agency when you call 911 someone has to respond,” said Chief Paco Balderrama. “I am hopeful with this added staff and our plan to add another 94 it will bring us up to full staffing in long, long time.”

For years the Fresno Police Department has struggled to fill open positions, especially after the Defund The Police movement and an alarming increase in shootings and homicides, a Fresno Police Officer Union President Brandon Wiemiller warned in a 2021 interview with our station said that the department was facing a crisis.

“So we have to be very forward-looking and recognize the iceberg that we are headed for,” said Wiemiller.

Earlier this year, the city signed a three-year contract with the department making the officers the highest paid in the valley.

Chief Balderrama said before the pay hike the department was losing 4-12 officers a month but now the tide is turning.

“Now our attrition rate is 2.75. The contract has helped tremendously paying officers what they are worth,” said Balderrama.

The department continues to be down 65 officers but Balderrama said over 90 trainees are in the pipeline through training and the cadet program. Balderrama expects the department to be fully staffed by December.