Springfield ends age restriction to recruit police officers

Chief, city manager say new rule will help fill 19 current vacancies.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Springfield city commissioners took action Tuesday night to eliminate one of the barriers to the recruitment of new police officers: the maximum age restriction for new officers.

Under state of Ohio statute, the maximum age for becoming a certified police officer is 35 years of age. Cities are allowed to modify that, and with commission approval, Springfield eliminated the restriction.

City Manager Bryan Heck told commissioners the city currently has open positions and Springfield, along with other communities across the country, struggles to fill them.

“We feel like we are missing out on a lot of opportunities,” Heck said. “To receive full retirement benefits from the military now you have to stay active for 20 years. Let’s say someone enlisted at 18. At full retirement, they would be 38 years old. According to the state max, you would not be eligible to become a police officer for the first time. So this allows additional opportunities for members of our community who want to serve and make a great impact.”

Police Chief Allison Elliott said the department has five generations working currently.

“Over time we have seen a shift in how generations see the workforce, and we believe we can offer an opportunity to those who have entered the workforce and changed jobs or careers a couple of times,” she said. “They can bring that life experience, that work experience and a different level of maturity, perspective and diversity of thought” to enhance police efforts.

Civil Service applications are the first step in the process and are currently being accepted until Sept. 3. Access to the applications is available on the city’s website under listing for employment opportunities and a link is also available from the police division’s Facebook page.

The Springfield Police Division has a sworn force of 111 police officers but is considered fully staffed with 130 officers. Elliott says the goal is to fill 19 currently vacant positions.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office does not have a maximum age requirement, Sheriff Deb Burchett said. She said they are experiencing the same struggle as other law enforcement offices nationwide with getting enough applicants.

“If they can do the job, they can be hired,” Burchett said.

The sheriff’s office hires people as young as 18 for corrections officers, and deputies must be 21 or older.

Assistant Mayor Rob Rue pointed out members of the police force have been using social media to spread the word about opportunities with the police division.

He said: “I’ve seen officers repost the job listing and talk about how much they enjoy working for the city. Congratulations to the leadership, because when you get your own staff trumpeting ‘Come work with us,’ that’s really great.”

While the maximum age requirement has been eliminated, the minimum age to apply remains 20 and a half, and it is 21 to become a certified police officer.

According to Elliott, those interested in a career with the city police force can qualify for training through the Clark State College Police Academy and earn pay while they complete their required studies.

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