Police and Firefighter Hiring Trend Continues

Earlier this year I wrote about the Turning Tide in Police and Firefighter Hiring. As weJobs reach the midyear point, police and firefighter hiring trend appears to be accelerating along with a couple of interesting twists.

Class of 20 Immediately Following 40

Kansas City is planning a recruit class of 20 new police officers immediately after wrapping up its current academy class of almost 40 cadets, one of its largest classes. The department reports that last year it had 400 applications for the police academy. Recruiters this year are looking for a new incoming academy class of about 20 people, but so far the applications aren’t pouring in like they were last year. It is still early in the process and the numbers of applicants will surely rise.

Read more from Kansas City: HERE

Salaries Remain Strong

In New Jersey the Rutherford mayor and council have approved hiring new police recruits after several years of a hiring freeze. While the recruits are in the academy they will earn $27,242 and within eight years the new officers could earn up to $99,639 per year.

Police Chief Russo said that he hopes this is sign of change for the police department, which has not had the ability to hire new officers for a number of years. “To be honest, said Russo, I’m not looking to get back to the 49 officers that we had when I first started. I just want to be able to staff all of the shifts without having to constantly dip into overtime.”

Read more details from Rutherford:  HERE

Diversity in Hiring Continues

In Erie, PA nearly 300 applied to become City of Erie firefighters. The strong diversification trend continued in Erie where officials say the pool includes African American, Latino and female candidates. Preliminary results show that the pool includes 20 women; three African-American men; three Latinos; one African-American woman; and three who listed their ethnicity as “other.”

An ongoing recruiting effort continues as it as for the past few years. Erie has printed brochures detailing application requirements that are distributed throughout the community, including local churches. To expand its reach, the city has also advertised on its website, www.erie.pa.us, and in Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Cleveland newspapers.

Read more details from Erie: HERE

New Firefighter Hires Help ISO Rating

In Springfield, FL the commissioners voted to hire six new firefighters before the June 1st deadline set by Insurance Services Inc. (ISO). In October ISO informed the commissioners the city’s rating would increase — homeowners would pay more for insurance — without the additional firefighters to meet staffing level requirements.

With the decision to hire six firefighters the commissioners also approved a budget to spend  $12,042 to equip the new firefighters with coats, pants, suspenders, boots, helmets, gloves and shields.

Read more from Springfield: HERE

Increased Hiring Brings Competition

The economy is moving slowly toward recovery and in law enforcement, like many industries, jobs are beginning to open up again.

Bigger departments are opening their doors to new hires and many local officers are ready to take them up on the promise of higher pay, lower cost of living and more action on the job.  Unable to compete, local departments are again beginning to struggle to keep well-trained and qualified people on staff.

Its been recently reported that Denver PD ended a more than four year hiring freeze last fall and was on track to bring on 100 new officers in 2013. Many of these larger agencies will pull new hires from smaller agencies who cannot compete with salaries, benefits and in some cases more career opportunities.  

A new patrol deputy for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office (Colorado) can start off at an annual salary of approximately $45,000. Denver PD pays a police officer 4th grade more than $51,000 and salaries are set to increase next year. (According to the departments web sites.)

Read more: HERE

Firefighters and Paramedics Finding Higher Paying Jobs

In the past three years, Georgetown County, SC has lost nearly 100 firefighters and paramedics to higher paying jobs. Some took jobs in places as close as Horry County, where starting salaries are about $5,000 higher than in Georgetown County.

Leaving For More Pay

One firefighter/paramedic took the same position in Montgomery, Md., for a salary of $70,000. That’s $11,000 more than fire chiefs, the highest paid firefighting employees in Georgetown County, earn. Another firefighter moved to Florida to make surfboards. He now makes more money than he did at Midway Fire Rescue.

Read more from Georgetown: HERE

Will Police and Firefighter Hiring Continue?

I think yes. After tracking police, fire and all public safety job growth there is an unquestionable national up-tick in job hiring across all areas, disciplines and specialties. Another trend worth mentioning is the number of veterans turning to jobs in public safety after their honorable careers. Well trained vets along with the dramatic growth of college curriculums in fire and police science programs (I will be writing more about community college programs in the near future) will make competition tough for applicants but offer a huge benefit for counties and cites.

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Police and Fire Academies Hiring: Is the Tide Turning?

We have all read the headlines and many have felt the reality of reduced or eliminated public safety recruit academies over the past 4 years. As the Managing Editor of Responder Gateway, I keep a close eye on technology trends, events making news, chatter around the coffee pot and reports from our sponsors. Starting last September I began to notice a change. Have we turned the corner on reduced Fire/EMS and Police hiring? Can we state without a doubt that the worst of the hiring freeze is over? As with most things, there is no absolute yes or no answer. However, as the old song goes, “The Times They Are a Changin’.” In August/September of 2012, we began to see headlines such as this one from Toledo Ohio: “42 begin 26-week push to become Toledo officers.” Toledo Police Chief Derrick Diggs said the new officers are “desperately needed.” The department went years without hiring a police class and in the last year-and-a-half, has been trying to play catch-up and bolster the ranks amid retirements and a gap in hiring. Police Cadet

Division Chief Michael T McIntosh of the Adams County Sherriff’s Office in Colorado reports “We have certainly seen an uptick in our Academies. We, for the first time in 5 years had every seat filled in our Academy, in fact we had 7 additional seats causing me to conduct skills training on Saturday. Our July Academy is already full and my staff is ready to kill me because I asked them to look at the possibilities of running a third academy. Needless to say, business is very good!

Psychologist use a term called “perceptual vigilance.” In layman’s terms, perceptual vigilance occurs when one becomes aware of something, such as news and conversation, and your mind changes the way it filters your impressions of it. Suddenly, it seems like the thing you’re interested in is appearing all the time.

Now in 2013, we see this trend of new recruit academies springing up in many parts of the country. This resurgence of new hires is not limited to just police or just fire – it’s occurring across both disciplines. So why now? What has changed or is changing? Several factors can be attributed to the hiring upswing, including:

  • Overtime Savings – Last year, Providence, RI Mayor Taveras stated at a new academy class ceremony that “The new fire academy will create good family jobs in our city and at the same time save up to $1 million annually by reducing overtime costs.”
  • Community Risk Reduction Program – In January the Philadelphia Firefighter Academy graduated its first firefighting class trained in the new Community Risk Reduction Program.
  • Hiring Due to Attrition – In Joliet, IL, staffing is down in the police department due to attrition and early retirements. The city looked for ways to save money to ward off budget shortfalls in recent years. But now the city intends to replace retirees to maintain staffing levels by adding 10 new officers to the existing staff. The city is also taking a new approach to hiring by seeking trained and certified officers. This will save the city money and allow officers to help out immediately.
  • Departments Training Together to Reduce Academy Costs – In Anoka County, MN fire departments identified the serious need to bring training into one place to reduce training costs. The combined efforts of 15 department chiefs found that over the next four years, 236 new firefighters would be needed to keep the departments at their current staffing levels.
  • Academy SAFER Grant Success – The academy in Anoka County received a $1.57 million SAFER grant in August 2012. The grant fully funds the academy for the next four years, including medical screening and equipment. It also includes a $500 bonus for the academy graduates if they stay with their departments for a year.

Speaking with several academy directors, there is an impressive focus on background, experience, and age of the new recruits. As new academies begin, the standard of new student (recruits) has never been higher. Several commons factors among police and fire academies seem to be overriding contributors to the selection of new recruits:

  • It is common place to see very large numbers of applicants for very few academy slots. For example:
    • In San Jose, CA there were 800 applicants for 52 positions and city reports 1,400 applicants for its next academy class.
    • The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has notified 2,800 eligible candidates who previously expressed continued interest in police jobs that up to 175 will be selected for their July academy.
  • Diverse backgrounds and experience are also driving high recruit hiring standards. Recruits with military backgrounds and recent multiple combat deployments on their resumes are common. Academy selection committees are enthusiastic about the work experience and discipline these individuals bring to the table and are pleased that they are able to employ veterans. It’s not uncommon in today’s recruit academy class to have new recruits between 27 and 35 years old; veterans; those looking for second careers choices; and those with advanced college degrees. Here are several examples of today’s experience and diversity:
  • Rochester, NY- Fire Academy consisting of 24 city residents includes one Asian male, two white females, one African American female, 11 African American males and nine white males; five of these recruits are also military veterans.
  • Madison, WI – Graduated 20 new firefighters from its recruit academy. Some examples of the recruit background include: USMC Reserves, Degree in Fire Protection Technician, Accounting and Paramedic License, Degree in Business Marketing, Degree from Northern Michigan University. One new recruit holds certificates in Firefighter I & II, Driver/Operator – Pumper, EMT – Basic, Fire Inspector I, Driver/Operator- Aerial, Fire Officer I, and Fire Instructor I.
  • Huntsville, AL – HAS just graduated 32 cadets, its largest and most diverse academy ever. The March 2013 graduating class includes 7 African American, 17 white males, 5 white females, 2 black females, 1 Asian female.

If my perceptual vigilance is accurate, we should not call the era of training academy cancellations and postponements a thing of the past; however, the darkest days seem to be behind us. Most job watch statistics derived from the leading job search platforms indicate an optimistic public safety job outlook over the next few years. This is supported by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

DOL forecasts that employment for police officers will experience growth through 2014 with competition remaining high due to attractive salaries and benefits, particularly with state and federal agencies. Further, recruits with college training in police science, military police experience, or both should have the best opportunities. Firefighter recruit statistics are also expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2018. Just as with police recruits, fire recruits will see strong competition for academy slots.

Going forward, and now with your “perceptual vigilance’ on full alert, keep an eye and ear on news and events in your community. It seems to me that recruit academies are going to get very busy in the very near future. And that’s one change in the tide we’d all like to see.