Is a police and firefighter job recovery underway?


FDNY Probie Class

After several years of dormant or non-existent hiring in public safety is there a recovery underway? Are cities, counties, state and federal agencies moving back to pre-recession staff levels? In past reports we highlighted that we saw as a slow but steady increase in the new recruit academies. Reports that departments were holding off hiring due to budget reductions are now beginning to rebuild and rehire? There is no consensus to be sure but many economic pundits and publications appear to be expressing a more optimistic tone than previous recent years.

  • “Look for economic growth to brighten in 2014, starting in the first quarter and averaging about 2.6% for the year.” www.
  •  “…state and local governments have stopped cutting their budgets.”
  • Some people disdain economic forecasts, but everyone has a view of the future. It may not be numerically explicit, but everyone believes that next year will be better, about the same, or worse. Forbers
  • It looks like the economy might actually recover in 2014. But will it? Washington Post

 Veteran Hiring Grows

Another steady trend gaining momentum in public safety hiring is the substantial influx of military veterans filling open positions and acceptance into recruit academies. In late 2012 the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), an office of the Department of Justice, from offering 220 cities $114.6 million in incentive grants to hire post-9/11 veterans to fill 800 law enforcement positions. These grants are now yielding new academy graduates. In a well circulated article titled “From military to police force: A natural transition? Gary Peterson writing for the Contra Costa Times states

In San Francisco, “The veterans we’re trying to reach out to, they have the set of skills, the discipline and the training where they would easily transition from the military to civilian law enforcement,” said San Francisco police Officer Gregory Pak

Diversity Hiring Still Raising

In New York the FDNY just graduated is second probie (recruit) last month. Of the 242 probationary firefighters who graduated from the Fire Academy, four were women, 35 had military backgrounds and 62% were minorities, eight had FDNY family members who died in the line of duty — including class valedictorian Connor Geraghty, who lost his father, Chief Edward Geraghty, on 9/11.

Tweaking the rules for diversity hiring

In Columbus Ohio they have “tweaked” the hiring rules for minority hiring. Recently Mayor Coleman ordered the city’s Department of Public Safety to try harder to increase diversity after he noticed that nearly all of the recent graduates from the police and fire academies were white men.

A report in the Columbus Dispatch reports that over the past five years, Columbus’ police and fire recruit classes have been less diverse than the overall ranks they are joining. Data show that about 85 percent of the city’s police officers are white men and 90 percent are in the Fire Division. Below at the hiring changes that are being discussed.

  • Candidates would not be removed if they took a drug not prescribed to them such as a Percocet or Ambien no more than once.
  • The city would not disqualify applicants if their driver’s license was suspended for financial reasons, such as nonpayment of car insurance.
  • Applicants would not be removed if they admit to minor physical or emotional domestic violence in the past 10 years, such as a fight with a sibling as minors that didn’t result in criminal charges.

Police- and fire-union officials have said the standards should not be changed, because of the sensitive nature of public-safety jobs.

Cities such as Akron, Toledo, Dayton, Boston and New York also are reassessing how to attract minorities and women. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed lawsuits against cities that lack diversity in police and fire departments, saying safety forces better protect and serve the public when officers and firefighters mirror the population.

Hiring News Headlines

Following is a collection of reports from the past 60 days that seem to validate the prospects of a positive hiring climate for 2014.

  • Brevard County Fire Rescue has 33 cadets in its current class with 27 being military veterans. About 500 people applied for the 33 positions, which pays the recruits while they train — 16 weeks to become firefighters and 10 to 12 more to complete emergency medical technician training. Veterans, who received special preferences for the program, earned all but six of those slots. The recruits were hired — with an emphasis on employing post-9/11 military veterans returning home from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and transitioning to civilian life — thanks to a $3.7 million federal grant that will pay for their training as well as salary and benefits for up to two years.
  • Denver—will spend about $2.9 million to hire about 80 new police officers in 2014. By the end of this year, Denver will have hired 110 new officers, say city officials.
  • Toronto— Proposes to hire 60 recruits in December, 2013, and another 300 in 2014 – for a total cost of $10.9-million – still wouldn’t be enough to make up for the average of 165 officers the force has been losing each year since it stopped hiring in 2011. 
  • Minneapolis—The 2014 spending plan will fund hiring new police and fire cadet classes and pay to open and staff the city’s 311 information center on Saturdays. The department is taking applications for a class of 25. Formal cadet training takes six months, with additional training during the next year and a half. The department also plans to hire 25 community service officers. These people — hired after they graduate from high school, with emphasis on Minneapolis residents.  They receive money for college and are paid a salary. Upon college graduation, they are eligible for assignment to a police recruit class that could lead to a full-time job as a sworn officer.
  • Milwaukee— The 2014 will recommend hiring 100 more police officers. Currently, there are 50 officers who were hired using federal stimulus money (COPS program mentioned above). Those funds are gone, but City Mayor Barrett said he was committed to keeping those officers on the force with city funds. The cost of keeping the 50 officers in place, plus hiring 100 new officers: $4.5 million.
  • Arlington—As a number of fire fighters begin to reach retirement age, Arlington Fire is hiring, The current 16-week fire recruit academy numbers 21 individuals, the next class selected around May will include 25 to 30 recruits.
  • Chicago—Hiring desperately is needed to get a handle on skyrocketing overtime in the Chicago Fire Department. It has gone from $13.5 million in 2011 to $20 million this year and is projected to reach $35.3 million in 2014. The precise number of vacancies was not known.
  • Glendale— For the first time in more than three years, the Glendale Fire Department is looking to hire. Fire officials plan to start accepting applications in August in an effort to hire 15 new firefighters. The last group of 10 firefighters was hired in 2010.

What is happening in your area? It seems to me that we have turned the corner and 2014 will be a good year, at least better than the past few. What Do you think?

  • Are you hiring 2014?
  • Staying the same?
  • Please give us your thoughts in comment box below.

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