CEDARVILLE, Ohio (WDTN) — Finding and keeping good officers has been a challenge for police departments across the state.
Governor Mike DeWine mentioned during a news conference on Wednesday he’d been informed that less than 40 people sat to take the Civil Service Test — and that hundreds had taken it in the past.
“Now when we put out applications, even through our recruiting efforts its tough to get 35 to 40 candidates,” said Beavercreek Chief of Police, Jeff Fiorita.
“There’s a lot of speculation on what the reason is — the negative publicity that’s being posted about law enforcement, the job [becoming] more complex, being in the public eye…” explained Dr. Patrick Oliver, director of the criminal justice program at Cedarville University.
Oliver is also the lead consultant to the Ohio Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment, which was created in 2020 following calls for law enforcement reform. The office aims to assist local law enforcement agencies in recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce.
Oliver said that they’re working to solve two problems: the lack of qualified candidates and the lack of qualified candidates in minority groups. The College to Law Enforcement Pathway program is one solution to these issues.
Upper-classmen students studying criminal justice at Cedarville University and Central State University with a qualifying GPA of 3.0 or above are eligible for the program that starts next fall. They will be partnered with mentors currently in the law enforcement profession and offered a guaranteed job upon graduation.
Beavercreek Chief of Police Fiorita said his department is interested in participating in the program and the logistics are still being worked out.
“This program is just another tool that we can use, especially for minorities and women, to help our recruiting efforts get those quality candidates,” said Fiorita.
The first graduates of this program will be ready for duty by March 2022 according to Oliver.
“I like to say the quality of the agency is equal to the quality of the officer serving that community,” he said. “We’re going to guide them, help them, assist them, through to do well and to start we’re going to pick the best students … [and] that college background will allow them to be effective in critical thinking, get along better with the community, and enhance their training to be leaders.”
The Law enforcement agencies that are planning to participate in the pilot project include the Beavercreek Police Department, Dublin Police Department, Fairfield Township Police Department, Fairview Park Police Department, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Lancaster Police Department, Lebanon Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Reynoldsburg Police Department, West Chester Police Department and Xenia Police Department.
Here in the Miami Valley, Chief Fiorita said he’s looking forward to seeing what a difference the program will make.
“We’re always trying to become better and make what we do better and if this program is just another one of those avenues to where we can recruit in a different manner to get some highly qualified candidates we’re all for it,” he said. “If we can have at least one candidate that we pull from this program to be an officer its going to be good because they’ve been exposed to everything for a couple of years and we know who they are already.”