Warren officials discuss ways to encourage more police officer candidates
By Ed Runyan
It’s been 16 months since voters approved a half-percent increase in the city income tax, partly to increase staffing at the police department, but the department has struggled to reach its hiring goals.
Leading up to the election, officials pledged to increase the number of police officers from 58 to 70, but its staffing level is currently 62 with three more officers starting in the next few weeks.
The Warren Civil Service commission has given a couple of tests since the election to provide candidates, but not enough have met the department’s standards. Another entry-level test is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 9 at Warren G. Harding High School.
People can apply at the police station from 2 to 4 p.m. April 24 and 10 a.m. to noon April 28.
At Tuesday’s civil service commission meeting, Law Director Greg Hicks, police Capt. Jeff Cole and members of the commission discussed ideas they hope will improve the candidate pool.
In the short term, the commission is eliminating one hurdle: the need to take an additional physical fitness test to be hired if the candidate received an Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy certificate in the past year. That training has physical-fitness requirements.
Warren requires individuals to have an OPOTA certificate before they can be hired, but the Youngstown Police Department doesn’t, Cole said. It hires them first and pays for OPOTA training in their first year.
Hicks said maybe it’s time for Warren to do something like that. “Let’s encourage people who don’t have the wherewithal to get certified and help them,” he said, adding that he thinks that would encourage more minorities and women to become police officers.
Hicks said he thinks local organizations would consider helping to pay for the training through a scholarship program.
“Knowing that you have the job is sure as heck more incentive to get there and start studying,” Hicks said. Without that incentive, a person might have invested their time and money in the training without knowing if it will land them a job. They might not pass the written test, said Hicks, a former police officer.
Atty. Dan Letson, chairman of the civil service commission, said he would talk to Al Novak, chairman of city council’s safety committee, about having a meeting to discuss eliminating the OPOTA requirement.
Lt. Brian Butler of the Youngstown Police Department, who handles hiring, recently helped Warren with sergeant promotions by being part of a panel that interviewed the candidates.
“It has been successful in the past, and I believe it would help Warren,” Butler said of hiring officers first and helping them get their OPOTA training.
Butler said it can be difficult for people who have a family and a job to find the time and money to get OPOTA training so they can start a law-enforcement career.