Marietta offering civil service test Saturday

MARIETTA – The Marietta Police Department will offer the first portion of its civil service examination Saturday in hopes of filling three patrolman positions that have been vacant for around four months.

The department is required by the Ohio Revised Code to hire based on the standardized exam, which consists of a physical and written portion, and while the test helps keep hiring practices fair, the long time frame necessary to set up, advertise and administer it creates a strain on manpower, said Marietta Police Chief Brett McKitrick.

“When you need somebody to fill a vacancy, you need them yesterday,” he said.

A fourth vacancy created last month when Sgt. Greg Nohe stepped in to replace former Marietta Police Detective Troy Hawkins will be filled Monday with the last remaining eligible applicant from the former civil service examination, said McKitrick.

That exam was administered in the fall of 2011 and the resulting candidate list lasts two years, but the three vacancies that opened at the beginning of the year made it obvious a new test would be needed sooner than this fall, said McKitrick.

“We had openings in January, asked for a test Feb. 6. Now we’re to May 18 when we actually test,” he said.

Once asked to administer an exam, the Civil Service Commission has to give notice of the test and advertise it for at least 30 days, said commission member Alan Hunt.

Even after the exams are administered, the process to get successful candidates hired and trained will likely take until September, said McKitrick, and that is if the candidate has already completed the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.

The process can be frustrating, especially for road officers who are picking up the slack while positions are open, said Belpre Police Chief Ernie Clevenger.

“Just thinking back on my 30 years, I can remember being a patrolman thinking ‘When are they going to hire somebody so I don’t have to work days off?'” recalled Clevenger.

Marietta officers have been working overtime to pick up the slack, said Patrolman Dianna Hively.

“I think we’ll all be happy to get some fresh faces in here to fill some of those hours,” she said.

Another concern with the civil service examination is that because it is typically only being offered once every two years, it eliminates some great would-be candidates, said McKitrick.

“Say you graduate from college and you just missed the civil service test. Well, we can’t even look at you until a new test is offered two years later,” he said.

While municipalities such as Marietta and Belpre are required by law to operate under a civil service commission, some smaller villages and township public agencies are exempt from the practice.

The Beverly Police Department, which employs four full-time officers and two-part time officers, hires solely based on applications, said Beverly Police Chief Mark Sams.

It makes the hiring process much faster than the nine months MPD is looking at, but by no means immediate, said Sams.

“A hire would have to go through a training period with another officer and the length of that could vary. I would say on the average it takes about three months to fill a vacancy,” he said.

In Beverly, only applicants that are already OPOTA certified are considered and they are required to go through a background check, psychological evaluation and physical, said Sams.

But Beverly’s hiring process could benefit from a standardized system, he said.

“We really need to look into having some type of written test set up to test applicants’ different areas of expertise,” he said.

Though the civil service exam has its deficiencies, both McKitrick and Clevenger agreed that it is still the best option for hiring.

“Some of the good they do outweigh the problems it causes. It’s protection from the old buddy system, from nepotism,” said McKitrick.

“I think almost anything could be made better if you study it long enough, but right now I’d say this system is the best we’ve got,” Clevenger added.

So far, 64 people have signed up for the exam, which starts with a physical fitness test on Saturday. The candidates that successfully meet standardized physical guidelines will move on to a written exam to be administered May 23.

The written test costs $15 per person, paid for by the city.

McKitrick said he is hoping to get at least 10 potential candidates from this round of testing. Three will be used to fill the recent openings created by a retirement, a resignation and a new position created with additional revenue from Marietta City Council. The rest of the list will create a buffer for a couple potential vacancies created by officers who might retire over the next two years.