Flow of applicants to take YPD test a trickle

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Unless there is a flood of applicants between now and July 5, the city police department will see a low pool of applicants for its civil service exam for entry level police officer.

As of Tuesday, just 22 people have so far signed up to take the test since applications began to be accepted Friday.

Jonathan Huff, Civil Service Commission chairman, said the main reason is because of the starting wage for police officers, which is just under $15 an hour. Some communities, including three that recently hired or will be hiring former city police officers, pay more than Youngstown’s starting salary of $14.93 an hour, or $31,054 annualy.

So far the numbers for the upcoming test to be given July 13 project to be far lower than the last two tests.

In 2016, 251 people applied for a spot on the department and 214 people took the test. In 2017, 118 people applied and 102 people took the test.

The department is expected to lose several officers over the summer to other departments, including two who are leaving for Austintown, where starting salaries there are $21.21 an hour, or $44,116 annually.

Police Chief Robin Lees said, however, he has not yet received official word that those two officers are leaving.

In April, city council rejected a fact finder’s report calling for raises for patrol officers because the report also called for eliminating three of the steps officers take to achieve the maximum salary. Because of the elimination of those steps, the city would see an increase in salary by Dec. 1, 2020, which it could not afford.

The administration and the patrol union are engaged in negotiations, but if an agreement cannot be reached, the matter will go to binding arbitration.

Two officers also left earlier this year for Hubbard, where beginning officers earn 80 percent of the top step, which is $19.72, or $41,017. Several officers have also taken the test for Akron police and two left to join its department in 2018. Starting yearly salary in Akron is about $53,000. For a Youngstown officer to achieve the maximum patrol officer salary, they must serve 12 years, after which they will make $27.08 an hour, or $56,326 annually.

Huff said because of the city’s low starting salary, officers who join the department will spend two or three years training and gaining experience, then move on to another department.

“We’re recruiting good people, but in two or three years they’re leaving to go to other agencies, and other agencies see the value in our officers,” Huff said.

Lees said officers who leave for another department tell him in exit interviews that the low wage is the main reason why they are leaving. He said that is a factor in why interest in taking the patrol officer’s test is down, but he added that increased scrutiny lately of police officers may also be a factor.

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