Oregon police try to expand applicant pool with network

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

So you want to be a police officer.

For most seeking a law-enforcement job, this means being at the mercy of whichever department is hiring.

The person is on that department’s inflexible schedule and, if more than one department is hiring, must take multiple tests, possibly take off work more than once, or arrange babysitters.

Oregon police Chief Mike Navarre hopes to change that.

“The whole intent of this endeavor was to make it easier for the applicant and, from a management standpoint, we want more people taking our test,” the chief said. “The more people taking our test, the more we have to choose from.”

Beginning today, anyone who wants to apply for Oregon Police Department vacancies can sign up for the test online at oregonohio. org/?Police/?police.html.

The test, developed by Ergometrics and administered by the National Testing Network, will be given numerous times at the Owens Community College Arrowhead Park Learning Center in Maumee starting Dec. 1. The test can be offered year-round, but the cutoff to apply for the department’s current vacancy is Jan. 31.

Perrysburg police have joined the network. Other departments have expressed interest.

“We’re definitely interested,” Northwood Chief Thomas Cairl said. “I like the regional testing ourselves because it opens us up to more applicants. … Civil Service will definitely be taking a look at it.”

To take the test, applicants must sign up for one of the offered dates and pay $45.

Past practice has been for Oregon police to offer a test once every two years at no cost to the applicant.

More frequent testing should yield more candidates and the video-based simulation testing, which emphasizes common sense and good judgment, should mean better candidates.

“It will improve the quality even if it doesn’t improve the quantity,” Chief Navarre said. “Applicants who have the best scores on this type of test are going to be the types of people we want to be police officers.”

Another bonus, the chief said, is the ability for candidates to apply for multiple jobs. Fourteen Ohio departments have joined the national network, as have 30 from other parts of the country, including Arizona, Colorado, Oregon state, California, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Washington state.

Applicants can apply to any department in the network for an additional $7 per department. That, the chief said, means more flexibility for applicants, more candidates to consider, and a cost savings for the departments.

With the old testing system, Oregon paid $30 to $35 per applicant to take the test once every two years, spending, on average, about $4,000 per test.

The only cost the department will incur now is the $150 annual fee to be part of the network. Next year, when Oregon uses the network to hire dispatchers, it will not have to pay another fee — it’s all included.

The biggest downside, Chief Navarre said, is asking applicants to shell out money to apply. “That was the one thing I didn’t like, was the applicant having to pay for a test. They’re unemployed, looking for a job, young,” he said. “But I think that’s the future.”

Nothing has been decided, but the department is considering reimbursing applicants who are hired. Those who cannot afford to pay for the test can apply for a “scholarship” to cover the cost.

Other steps in the hiring process still apply: Departments will adjust scores, giving extra points for whatever criteria they have — such as hiring veterans — and the streamlined testing does not eliminate background checks, interviews, and physical fitness requirements.

An applicant may take the test twice every 12 months; a score is valid for one year.

— Taylor Dungjen