Butler County law enforcement officials hopeful DeWine’s idea improves recruiting, hiring officers

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Law enforcement agencies throughout Butler County are short-staffed, and many are targeting the same recruits as potential officers.

At a time when a large percentage of police officers are reaching retirement eligibility age, some are leaving the profession because of the negative environment caused when officers killed unarmed Black men, most notably George Floyd last year in Minneapolis.

“It’s hard to sell,” Fairfield Public Information Officer Doug Day said about recruiting. “It’s really tough to do.”

Joshua King, spokesman for the Monroe police department and graduate of the police academy at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, agreed.

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“The climate,” he said when asked about the shortage of police officers. “There are a lot of negative things. If a police officer plays basketball with some kids that may get five minutes on social media. But if it’s something negative, it will get months and months of coverage.”

Last week, Gov. Mike DeWine introduced a pilot program under the new state Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment is an effort to recruit more officers and make sure the candidates who do apply are qualified.

“This is not an easy time to be in law enforcement,” DeWine said at a briefing. “Failure to keep the ranks of law enforcement full has the potential to create a public safety crisis.”

Monroe recently cancelled two community events because the police department was short-staffed, according to Chief Bob Buchanan.

The city of Middletown gave a grant to the Middletown Downtown Inc. to hire security guards to patrol downtown in hopes of reducing the homelessness issue after Chief David Birk said he didn’t have enough officers to work the overtime shifts.

DeWine said the objective of the program is to connect criminal justice programs from Ohio colleges and universities to law enforcement agencies in the state, effectively creating a pipeline for college students to become officers.

The program hopes to connect law enforcement majors at participating schools to receive mentoring and real-life experience from veteran officers. It will start with students at Cedarville University and Central State University being paired with officers at 11 agencies.

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“The two biggest problems in law enforcement right now are that we cannot get enough qualified candidates through the process and we can’t get enough qualified minorities or women through the process,” said Patrick Oliver, the director of the criminal justice program at Cedarville University.

Day, a 28-year veteran on the Fairfield police department, said he “loves the idea” from DeWine, but he has some concerns. He said those in the program still will have to pass the Civil Service test before they’re hired.

“We all want the right people, but not everybody is the right person,” he said. “You have to have a tolerant personality. Training is big. The more training the better. That’s how you avoid some of those mistakes.”

Day said Fairfield, like most police departments in the county, is hiring. He said departments try to recruit potential officers from a national network. There are more jobs than there are candidates.

“It’s a good time to be a recruit,” Day said. “Everybody wants you. You’re getting a job somewhere.”

West Chester police Chief Joel Herzog said his department has seven open police officer positions and he hopes DeWine’s program helps fill those positions with diverse and trained officers.

“Our numbers are way down in recruiting and this is a way to take a new approach,” he said.

Police departments hired a large number of officers in the 1990s and those officers are at retirement age.

“That’s across the board,” Herzog said. “Everywhere. We (police departments) are all competing for the same group of candidates.”

Herzog also said the educational partnership will give the department fully trained officers with critical thinking skills and not just solely military style training.

Butler County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said the sheriff’s office is unique because it also runs a jail and employees corrections officers who aspire to become patrol deputies and detectives.

But he noted recruiting is down in most departments.

Education is valuable for law enforcement officers, but BCSO is also looking for deputes who have the right temperament, personality and “just good common sense” that it takes to do the job, Dwyer said.

Middletown police Chief David Birk called DeWine’s idea “a new approach that could work.”

He said his department recently hired two officers, will hire another officer on July 6, leaving two vacancies.

Birk said all police agencies are facing the same issue. There are more openings than candidates.

“That’s the climate we’re in,” he said, pointing to how the death of George Floyd while in police custody “shed some light” on issues regarding police reform.

The Hamilton Police Department posted via social media last week that it was recruiting for officers.

“HPD is recruiting officers that have either of the following: OPOTA certification/out of state officer certification/or are currently an active student in a police academy” according to social media.

All testing with the National Testing Network (NTN) must be completed by the close date, Friday, July 9, 2021. The exam provided by the National Testing Network will be used as the civil service exam, according to the job posting on the city’s website.