Hundreds apply for police, fire jobs

Recruiting efforts focus on workplace diversity

The hiring processes of the Dayton police and fire departments are no longer under federal scrutiny, but city officials say they remain committed to improving workplace diversity and have stepped up recruitment efforts to attract more women and minority candidates.

On Monday, the public safety departments started accepting applications for new recruits for the first time in three to four years, and combined they received about 325 applications on the first day. The departments want to build a list of candidates for future recruit classes.

Dayton officials said the city wants to attract a large, diverse pool of candidates, and it has aggressively promoted careers in law enforcement and firefighting in all parts of the community.

In the police department’s last two classes, about 27 percent of recruits seated were minorities or female, compared to about 5 to 10 percent in past years, city officials said.

“Certainly we would like to have a larger pool of minority candidates,” said Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl. “But anytime we get over 20 percent, I think that’s a great success because it’s a slow evolution to get to a more diverse police force.”

In September 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint against the city alleging its testing unfairly discriminated against minority candidates.

In February 2009, Dayton and the justice department reached a settlement in which the city agreed to modify its recruitment program and exam standards to try to increase minority participation.

To attract more applicants, the city eliminated its practice of testing only professional firefighters, EMTs, or those with prior policing experience. The city began offering an oral exam as well.

Attrition in police department

The Dayton Police Department needs new recruits to address attrition, which has been higher than expected, Biehl said.

Last year, the department lost 23 officers after anticipating a loss of 15 to 18. This year, the department is on track to lose another 23 to retirements and turnover.

The police department tried to get 32 recruits for the current class, which began earlier this month. But a higher-than-anticipated number of candidates were eliminated during the psychological screening process. The class has 28 recruits.

The department also plans to seat a class of 12 to 14 recruits in February. The recruits will come from a pool of candidates who passed the written exam in 2013.

On Feb. 27, the city will administer its next police civil service written exam. Biehl said the police department hopes to get at least 1,000 applicants. The deadline to apply is Dec. 18.

The department received 2,400 interest cards, and about 125 people applied to take the police exam on Monday.

Applicants must take a written test and then later pass an oral exam, background screening and medical, psychological and physical fitness tests.

More aggressive recruiting

The city deliberately has been more aggressive in its recruiting to get a more diversified group of applicants, said Maurice Evans, secretary and chief examiner of the Dayton Civil Service division.

To spread the word about these careers, city representatives have visited numerous high schools, colleges, career fairs and other groups and institutions, including churches, Evans said.

The city hosted a well-attended open house so people could learn about the jobs.

In March 2014, the police department seated a class in which 25 percent of recruits were women and minorities.

The class that started earlier this month consisted of 29 percent women and minorities.

The hope is the class seated in February will have a similar level of minority and women representation, Evans said.

He said he hopes the numbers closely reflect the actual diversity in the Dayton region.

“We’re done with the DOJ, but we’re doing this on our own because we want to do it and not because we have to,” Evans said. “We want (the workforce) to look like Dayton, like the neighborhoods.”

Fire department needs

The fire department also is accepting applications for the first time since 2010. On Monday, about 200 applied online for the fire department.

The deadline to apply will be Feb. 12. Civil service will verify that applicants have a GED and a driver’s license.

The written exam will be administered on April 9. The city last administered the fire exam in June 2012.

Evans said the fire department did not have many women and minorities on its last candidate list. But he said the next pool of candidates should be more reflective of the city’s efforts to recruit minorities and women.

This January, the fire recruit class will be 14 people and will be the fourth class in four years.

The applications being accepted now will likely serve about two future classes, said fire Chief Jeff Payne.

The size of the classes will depend on the number of openings, but classes have been as large as 24 people, Payne said.

He said the city was aggressive in its recruiting and more than 4,400 people filled out interest cards to take the test.

To apply online, people can visit jobs.daytonohio.gov.

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