The understaffed San Jose Police Department will soon get help after graduating its first academy of community service officers.
But the new additions come at the same time the department was dealt with what many describe as a devastating loss.
Lt. Jeremy Bowers, a 20-year veteran who has served as the department's training commander, is leaving San Jose to join the Piedmont Police Department. Bowers has been the poster child for San Jose's recruitment and was seen as a possible future candidate for chief.
"Lt. Bowers leaving is a shock for all of us," said James Gonzales, a board member for the Police Officers Association. "This is somebody who has really led us through some of our darkest times and someone we saw leading us into the future of this department."
Chief Larry Esquivel declined to comment on the departure, but said the department is determined to move forward.
"We increased the capability to have three academies a year and we coordinated and actually secured a consulting or marketing firm to help us with our recruiting efforts," Esquivel said.
Bowers' exit comes at a critical time. The already ailing department has 186 officers who will be eligible for retirement over the next 21 months.
"I think it's hugely significant that somebody who is so woven in the fabric of everything that we're doing -- our community policing, our recruiting, our training -- is leaving," Gonzales said. "It's going to affect other people."
Bowers declined a request to be interviewed. The department will deal with the void in early September.
Meanwhile, the 25 new community service officers will handle lower-level calls, which will help free up other officers.