Middletown fire, police departments have lost 185 years of experience this year

Middletown’s two public safety chiefs are facing the same challenge: Replacing many years of experience after multiple longtime employees retired.

Middletown Division of Fire had two members retire this year, Deputy Fire Chief David Adams and firefighter/paramedic Tim Kinsworthy, who had 29 and 28 years experience, respectively. The department may have two more firefighters retire this year, said Chief Paul Lolli.

Police Chief David Birk is dealing with even more loss of veterans. So far this year, six members of the police force have retired, taking more than 128 years of experience. And that doesn’t include detective Larry Fultz, who plans to retire next month after 33 years, and Deputy Chief Scott Reeve, who’s retiring in September after 35 years.

Lolli said seven firefighters/EMTs have been hired, and if the department receives a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant, six more will be hired this year.

Lolli, who has worked in Middletown for 32 years, said 24 percent of his 81-member staff have at least 25 years of experience, while 53 percent have less than 10 years on the job.

He said those in public safety with at least 25 years experience are eligible to retire. Most firefighters and police officers, once they reach 25 years, enroll in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), a program that allows them to freeze their pension into another retirement account. They must stay in the program for five years, but leave after eight years.

“You can’t replace experience,” he said.

To combat the loss of experience, Lolli said firefighters are constantly training. He said during the last few weeks he has seen instances in which a mistake was made due to inexperience.

“These are split moment decisions,” he said.

The goal, Lolli said, is to have a firefighter with 25 years of experience, not a firefighter with one year of experience 25 times.

“That’s the guy you don’t want,” he said.

The police department has three vacancies and has received 50 applicants, which is “pretty amazing” because police departments have faced a negative perception by many because of national incidents in the past few years, Birk said.

Birk said civil service tests are being taken, followed by polygraphs, physical fitness tests and psychological evaluations, which is time-consuming but necessary.

“The hiring process is so critical,” Birk said.

After police officers are hired, they have four to five months of field training, then placed on one-year probation. He said new officers are closely monitored by street supervisors.

The department also has shifted some personnel and needs to train police officers to make them candidates to fill the two open detective positions, Birk said.


MIDDLETOWN FIRE DEPARTMENT RESIGNATIONS, RETIREMENTS

Deputy Fire Chief David Adams, 29 years

Firefighter/paramedic Tim Kinsworthy, 28 years

NEW HIRES

Firefighter/EMT Kyle Baughman

Firefighter/EMT Kevin Bryant

Firefighter/EMT Cameron Koch

Firefighter/EMT Tyler Mullis

Firefighter/EMT Jeremy Spears

Firefighter/EMT Michael Welch

Firefighter/paramedic Ross Green to be reinstated April 5

POLICE DEPARTMENT RESIGNATIONS, RETIREMENTS

Detective Steve Winters, 29 years

Detective Jon Rawlins, 28 years

SRO Robyn Rawlins, 25 years

Detective Tim Meehan, 22 years

Police officer David Creech, 20 years

Housing code specialist Roger Mahaffey, 12 years

NEW HIRES

Police officer Austin Renner

Police officer Kendahl Bowles

Police officer Connor Beel

SOURCE: City of Middletown

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