WHITTIER – Cops don’t grow on trees.So the Whittier Police Department is taking radical steps to ensure it can fill vacancies.For the first time in nearly a decade, the department is undergoing a major recruitment drive, aiming to hire between six and nine new officers with no prior police training.The department is paying for their training at the Rio Hondo Police Academy. At the same time, the department will pay the trainees a full-time salary of about $4,000 per month.Jose Tinajero, 22, of Norwalk, who graduated from the Rio Hondo Police Academy on Thursday at the head of his class, already had been hired by the department while still in the academy.“I’ve always wanted to be a role model,” Tinajero said of his decision to become a cop. “I enjoy taking people that hurt others off the street. As a kid, I always looked up to officers.”Whittier police officials say a looming shortage of trained officers has forced them to take more aggressive recruiting measures.The department already is down two officers, and five members are about to retire.Recruitment has become a major concern, particularly due to the rigorous process the department requires its officers to complete. Of about 100 applicants, only one or two are eventually hired, officials said.Applicants must pass a polygraph test, a physical agility examination, an in-depth background check and several psychological evaluations.“The reason we’re hiring entry level is because we have so many people from this area saying to us, `Gee, my kid would’ve loved to be a Whittier police officer, but you don’t hire entry level officers,”‘ said Whittier police Chief David Singer.“We also want a bigger field of candidates.”While the department will continue to hire its officers from the academy or from other police agencies, a team of 25 officers is also peppering schools, businesses and military bases with fliers offering paid police academy training.Tinajero was one of the more highly qualified candidates to attract the department’s attention, said department spokesman Officer Alan dela Pena.He entered the police academy soon after being discharged from the Marine Corps, where Tinajero served two tours in Iraq.He was also an Explorer cadet while in high school, assisting police officers at public events.“Since high school, I’ve seen the department and how it works,” Tinajero said. “It inspired me to want to work there. Whittier is known for its high standard of hiring.”A large part of the job calls for decision-making skills, said dela Pena.“At the end of the day, we are paid to make good decisions, whether it’s a shoot-or don’t-shoot scenario or a husband-wife disturbance. Sometimes we have to make decisions for people who can’t make decisions on their own,” he said. “We’re looking for people who can deal well with different aspects of society, too. You have to be unbiased.”The next application deadline is Dec. 16 for the department’s Jan. 7 written test.Chief Singer said he’s looking for potential officers willing to serve the public but who also like the area.“We want to hear, `I want to protect and serve the public.’ Police work is more of a calling for a lot of people,” said Singer. “It’s rewarding, but you can also see terrible things.” [email protected](562) 698-0955, Ext. 3026 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!