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Parkersburg City Council committee forwards police internship program

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin discusses a proposed internship program for the department during a Parkersburg City Council Personnel Committee meeting Tuesday at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — An ordinance establishing an internship program for the Parkersburg Police Department was referred to Parkersburg City Council on Tuesday by its Personnel Committee.

If approved by council at its Jan. 26 and Feb. 9 meetings, the ordinance would create four intern positions that pay $10 an hour with no benefits. Mayor Tom Joyce and Police Chief Joe Martin said the program would engage and train candidates who passed the written and agility tests for the department and completed a background check but may not be ready to go to the academy and join the department.

“We look at this as another tool toward recruiting the best police force we possibly can,” Joyce said.

A syllabus for the program outlines how interns would spend 2,080 hours learning about different aspects of the job, including dispatching, criminal and traffic law, use of force, evidence and photography and 936 hours shadowing uniformed patrol officers. Martin said the hours equate to a year of 40-hour weeks, though some candidates could complete the work in less time or take a little longer.

The committee voted 4-0, with Councilman Bob Mercer absent, to amend the ordinance so the syllabus did not become part of the municipal code. Joyce asked for that so Martin could make adjustments without seeking amendments from council.

Parkersburg City Council Personnel Committee Chairwoman Sharon Kuhl, right, speaks during a committee meeting Tuesday at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

“We may get through this first group of candidates and decide we need to do something different,” Martin said.

That would also provide flexibility for candidates who excel in one area to get extra training in another, Joyce said.

Joyce said the program could be useful for prospective officers who might be finishing an undergraduate degree and not be able to join the department immediately. It could also help ease the transition from civilian life into “the whole paramilitary component of taking orders,” he said.

Interns who attend the state police academy and join the department would still be subject to a one-year probationary period after being hired, Joyce said.

Martin said the program would not require additional funding.

Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce discusses a proposed Police Department internship program during a Parkersburg City Council Personnel Committee meeting Tuesday at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

“If we have one vacant police officer position … that will pay for two internships,” he said.

The department is adding two officers Monday, Martin said, but that still leaves 10 vacancies.

The internship proposal follows other recent moves by the city to recruit officers, including a salary increase and a $10,000 bonus for certified officers who join the department and don’t have to go to the academy. The first candidate for that bonus, which is paid after one year of service, recently joined the department, Martin said.

“Our police officers need help,” Personnel Committee Chairwoman Sharon Kuhl said. “I commend the mayor and the chief for coming up with this idea.”

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