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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Public Safety Departments and College Partnerships

Over the past 15 years collaboration between polLCCC PSTI Dedication-08_021ice, fire departments and community colleges to share or co-locate training centers has had hot and cold periods. In 1998 the Regional Public Safety Training Center Washoe County Nevada was a joint effort between multiple agencies including the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, City of Reno, City of Sparks, and Truckee Meadows Community College. In 2003 Luzerne Community College began work on a multi agency, Public Safety Training Institute. Universities also remain a strong partner with public safety training schools like the University of West Virginia State Fire Academy that was formed in 1974 and in 2003 undated its training facilities at Jackson’s Mill to accommodate increased demand.

Since the economic down turn of 2008 collaboration efforts has turned hot once again. In a recent national bench DSC00042marking survey undertaking by IBG the “trend” of, merging public safety agencies and colleges has yielded significant improvement to training delivery, curriculum development teamwork, and more important open and cooperative communication between all groups.

In February 2012, IBG initiated a benchmarking effort to “validate the possible” by researching and identifying community colleges that excel in providing public safety training programs to not only their students but also provide training and/or training facilities to agencies within their regional. In order for a Community College to be selected for benchmarking it had to meet certain criteria. First, it must serve multiple disciplines within the public safety/public services fields (i.e. not just police and fire). Second, it must provide a wide range of training programs and curriculum that extend beyond the typical (i.e. shooting range, live fire training) public safety offerings.  Third, it must be affiliated with a two-year or four-year college. IBG closely examined the physical attributes, partnerships and affiliations, programs and curriculums, and management practices of these exceptional training centers. Benchmarking Information Sheets were prepared for each one. The sheets provide insight in a quick read format into what is being done well and what could be improved or changed at these facilities. Based on experience and familiarity with training centers across the nation, IBG identified five of them that are nationally-recognized as training centers of excellence:

  1. Luzerne County Community College Public Safety Training Institute
  2. Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy
  3. Tarrant County College Public Safety Institute
  4. Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex
  5. Washoe County Regional Public Safety Training Center

Today many joint training center partnerships are underway or being formed. Most recently reported was the tentative agreement (details still being worked out) between Madison College and the Madison Fire Department in Madison WI. Other very successful partnerships between colleges and public agencies are reported at the Flatrock Training Center near Denver, Rouge Community College near Medford, OR provide both criminal justice and Emergency Fire Services curriculums that local agencies find very beneficial.

Community colleges play an integral role in public safety training – after all, their goal is to excel at education. Depending on the partnership structure, community colleges can provide something as simple as a steady stream of students or as complex as full management of training center operations. Increasingly, departments are partnering with community colleges. The result is that each benefits exponentially from the skills of the others. Partnerships also enhance both the numbers and the diversity of the student population. Some may be full-time college students, others working firefighters or law enforcement officers.

There are probably as many ways to structure partnerships between community colleges and public agencies as there are training centers in the country. In 2013 and for the foreseeable future partnerships will remain essential and will continue to grow. If a department is considering the development or modification of a training center a college the same partnerships should be at the top of any priority list.

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Police Fire Facility Cost and Funding Benefit Analysis

Here’s something to think about:

These are difficult funding times, as everyone is aware.  If I’m an elected official, a Mayor, Councilperson or County Commissioner, I must ask the question:

  • “Why should I support the Public Safety Facility project?”

You must be prepared with a strong response, to answer this question—and make no mistake—this question will be asked.  If the project is in competition with other projects across the city and this is usually the case.  Ask yourself three questions:

  1. “What must I do to make my Project stand out?”

  2. “What need does it solve?”

  3.  “How do I prove it?”

You must be prepared with a strong response, to answer this question—and make no mistake—this question will be asked. Here are several example of what I mean;

  • Are you renting existing facilities to conduct training classes?  This is a Hard Cost that could be saved by having your own facility.

  • How much time are you spending driving to other centers?

  • What are your overhead costs associated with having to drive to other facilities?

  • Look at your vehicle driving / accident records.  How many accidents have you had?  Documented studies have shown at more drivers training leads to few accidents.

  •  Would your insurance premiums benefit from a strong, safe, driving consistent driving program?

  • Think about Partner with other fire agencies, or, with other law enforcement agencies across the country. Partnerships are certainly a growing trend across the country.

I have spoken about the value of Partnerships in past video casts

When considering Cost Benefits… Keep one thing in mind:

Funding is competition!

Many other departments and project are competing for the same dollar.

You have to beat your competition.  In order to do so, you must have a strong, well thought, well-document Strategic Plan. I’m Bill Booth, and this has been something to think about for a new facility design.

Providing a strong Cost Benefit Analysis is a critical element in the funding battle.

In the following 3 minute video I address this issue in some detail.