With too few candidates, Warren to give additional police, firefighter tests


By Ed Runyan

runyan@vind.com

WARREN

Hiring tests given recently to find additional police officers and firefighters have not produced enough candidates to fill the openings.

Of the 37 people who signed up to take the test for entry-level police officer, 27 took the test and 11 people passed the exam, members of the Warren Civil Service Commission learned Tuesday.

But the police department is looking to hire 13 people, so another test will need to be given, commission member Dan Letson, an attorney, said.

The police department is hiring with money from an income-tax increase approved by voters in November.

The fire department will hire eight or nine firefighters from its current list of qualified candidates, but it needs six or seven more people to reach the number set by a $2.4 million two-year U.S. Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters grant it received last year, Fire Chief Ken Nussle said.

The commission will have another entry-level firefighter test at 9 a.m. April 29 at Warren G. Harding High School and will accept applications from 10 a.m. to noon March 28 and 2 to 4 p.m. March 31, both at the Warren Fire Department.

Pastor Todd Johnson, a commission member, offfered to organize an information day, possibly at his church, Second Baptist on Main Avenue Southwest, sometime this month, to spread awareness about the next firefighter test and increase the number of people who take it.

Johnson said the effort will include “some real aggressive outreach to the minority and female community in general. It would be open to everyone, but we’re trying to gear it in that direction.”

Johnson said the session could include a presentation by a few firefighters and possibly provide a place where applications could be picked up.

“We know that civil service is not hitting with minorities especially at all,” Johnson said.

Letson said he supported Johnson’s information-day idea and suggested that the commission seek funding from the city administration to advertise the event.

In December, the last time the city offered an entry-level firefighter exam, one female and one black male signed up to take the test, but neither one did, so none of the 20 people who passed the test were minority or female.

Lt. Jeff Cole of the Warren Police Department noted the department has done outreach to 16 colleges and small universities regarding its entry-level police tests at least the last three times the test was offered.

The civil service commission raised the eligibility age limit for police officers from 34 to 40 recently to increase the number of potential candidates.

Police Chief Eric Merkel said when he got into the profession in the 1990s, several hundred people took the entry-level test, compared with 27 recently. He said the percentage of the people who pass the test who are hired also is pretty low, only about 20 percent. The department has 57 officers, including Merkel. It is trying to reach 70.

Merkel says he thinks being a police officer in Warren offers a lot of opportunity. “There are a lot of people who need help,” he said. “There’s a lot of crime.”

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