Minority leader says involvement of community in Warren police promotion encouraging

By Ed Runyan



Longtime minority leader Thomas Conley says the inclusion of he and three other community leaders in the recent promotional process for Warren police sergeant was “historic” and encouraging.

“It was actually historic for the city of Warren, and I’m very humbled to have been part of it,” said Conley, CEO and president of the Greater Warren-Youngstown Urban League.

It was historic because it was the first time the police department invited members of the community to participate in the promotional process, Conley said.

“Going through the interviews with the candidates, I can see a real change is happening to the positive in the police department,” Conley said.

“I’ve seen evidence of community-mindedness, I’ve seen evidence of procedural changes, and really the willingness to serve the community,” Conley said of the seven patrol officers they interviewed.

The result was that officers Tim Parana and Thad Stephenson scored the highest and received the promotions. The Warren Civil Service Commission on Tuesday certified the results of the sergeant’s exam.

The process this time included two types of assessment – a written civil-service test, as has been used in the past, and an assessment conducted by a panel of four volunteer community leaders. Each part counted for half of the grade.

Atty. Dan Letson, chairman of the commission, said the assessments took about 45 minutes each and lasted a full day.

A representative of the city’s testing company, Clancy & Associates, spent about an hour discussing the process with the four volunteers before the interviews. Committee members were given a set of questions to ask all the candidates.

Police Chief Eric Merkel said he prefers to use assessments in addition to written tests because some people are good at taking written tests and some are not. Paid assessors were used in the selection of Jeff Cole to the most recent promotion to police captain, but that type of assessment is expensive, Merkel said.

Conley said the interviews gave him a better look at what the police department is doing and has done to satisfy the requirements of the U.S. Justice Department consent decree that identified areas where the police department had failed to protect the rights of citizens.

The three other assessors were Holly Welch, lead principal at the McGuffey Pre-kindergarten to Grade 8 School in Warren; Todd Werth, Boardman Township police chief and former area director of the FBI; and Lt. Brian Butler of the Youngstown Police Department.

Conley said the scores were similar among all four members of the panel.

Werth said he is looking at whether he can use the same process for promotion of officers in his department.

“It gives you a fresh look at the candidates,” Werth said. “I also think it’s a personal-development process for all of the candidates to go through it. [The candidates] get to sit down and interview with four individuals they don’t know.”

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