Local law enforcement agencies are trying to raise officer recruitment numbers any way they can but are still having difficulty finding willing and suitable candidates to fill open slots.
Monongalia County Sheriff Perry Palmer said his department needs to hire six deputies to be fully staffed. He hopes to find some candidates for those positions on Saturday at the department’s next Civil Service Examination.
Palmer said the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department is the second or third highest paid sheriff’s office in the state and offers great benefits. But despite that, recruitment has been challenging. When it does receive a few applications, many of the applicants do not show up to take the physical agility and civil service tests.
The sheriff’s office runs ads and has even rented a billboard in the past to help bolster numbers — to no avail.
Those interested in a position at the sheriff’s department will have an opportunity to begin the process on Saturday when the county law enforcement agency holds its next exam.
The process will start with the physical agility test which will be administered at 10 a.m. at the West Virginia University track located by the Coliseum.
In order to pass the agility test and move on to the written exam, the sheriff’s office requires testers to properly execute 18 push-ups within one minute, do 28 properly executed sit-ups within one minute and complete a 1.5 mile run within 14 minutes and 36 seconds.
Those who prove to be in shape and pass the agility portion will then report at 1 p.m. to the multi-purpose room in the sheriff’s office, at 116 Walnut St., for the written exam.
Applicants who are already certified for law enforcement will not be required to take the physical exam, but will still need to complete the written exam, Palmer said. Military veterans will receive five additional points added to their written score and if an applicant received a Purple Heart or have a verified service-connected disability, another five points can be added to their score.
Palmer said while previous experience and certification is ideal because they will be able to start patrolling sooner, anyone interested, male, female, experienced or not, is welcome to apply and take the tests.
Applications for MCSD are available on their website or at the office and completed applications can be dropped off in person or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications can also be hand-delivered the morning of the exam before the agility test begins.
Other local departments are also increasing recruitment efforts through various incentives and pay raises — like the $1,000 pay raise recently granted to the Westover Police Department by Westover City Council, taking starting officers to $24.85 per hour or $51,688 per year.
Westover Chief Joe Adams has added a few recruits to the department’s ranks in the past year, but still has a position to be filled during its next test sometime in June. He said he would like to get to a point where the department has a list of interested candidates to pull from when openings occur.
The Morgantown Police Department, which has been short several officers for quite some time, recently joined the national 30×30 initiative to advance the representation and experience of female officers, with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of women in police recruit classes to 30% by 2030.
Even when there are a handful of potential candidates, the process new recruits must go through before being street-ready has multiple steps that could diminish the number of potential officers as they progress through the stages.
In West Virginia, police officers must attend the police academy and become certified before they are able to be on their own — and for many years the State Police Academy was the only option. This left some new recruits waiting for weeks or even months before being able to attend.
A new police training academy at Fairmont State University, which opened earlier this year, will hopefully help reduce the number of would-be officers waiting their turn, by adding a second training option closer to Monongalia County.
However, before any academy is an option, applicants must get through the initial agility test, followed by the written civil service exam.
Each department offers testing at different times, which can be found by contacting the individual department of interest.