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Leyens cites city trouble in hiring police officers

[4/15/04]Filling vacancies in the Vicksburg Police Department continues to be tough, even two years after officer salaries were made among the highest in the state.

Speaking to the Vicksburg Civil Service Commission Wednesday, Mayor Laurence Leyens said part of the answer may be offering placement tests more often.

Commission Chairman Joe Graham said the commission-approved test can be given as often as needed, but that the real problem is finding qualified applicants.

The department has 11 immediate openings.

Graham said that out of 51 people who signed up to take the last test, 36 took it and 13 passed. Police Chief Tommy Moffett said five of those may be offered jobs after physicals and background checks.

Moffett said filling all 87 uniformed positions in the department would be ideal, but is not easy.

“When you get a new police officer you set them out in a car that can do 120 mph and give them a gun that can shoot all day,” Moffett said. “And you have to be very careful about that.”

Three years ago, Vicksburg police officers became the highest paid in the state with starting base wages at $32,422. That is $10,000 more than Jackson and $900 less than Dallas offers new hires. It’s about $4,000 per year more than a school teacher, and there’s also an opportunity for overtime.

Leyens and the city’s two aldermen said they wanted to raise salaries to attract better qualified candidates.

“Why isn’t there a demand to get into the police department?” Leyens asked. “I expected to have a waiting list.”

Police and fire operations are the largest and most expensive city operations. The fire department has only one opening out of 126 positions.

Moffett said police departments historically have trouble filling openings. “I wish we had a list like the mayor said of people knocking our doors down, but it’s just not realistic,” he said.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the three-member, volunteer panel approved two transfers to the Vicksburg Police Department from other cities and removed two names from the list of qualified applicants at Moffett’s request. One name was removed after the applicant decided to accept a job somewhere else and another was removed following a background investigation by the department.

The commission also set the next Civil Service exam for June 5.[4/15/04]Filling vacancies in the Vicksburg Police Department continues to be tough, even two years after officer salaries were made among the highest in the state.

Speaking to the Vicksburg Civil Service Commission Wednesday, Mayor Laurence Leyens said part of the answer may be offering placement tests more often.

Commission Chairman Joe Graham said the commission-approved test can be given as often as needed, but that the real problem is finding qualified applicants.

The department has 11 immediate openings.

Graham said that out of 51 people who signed up to take the last test, 36 took it and 13 passed. Police Chief Tommy Moffett said five of those may be offered jobs after physicals and background checks.

Moffett said filling all 87 uniformed positions in the department would be ideal, but is not easy.

“When you get a new police officer you set them out in a car that can do 120 mph and give them a gun that can shoot all day,” Moffett said. “And you have to be very careful about that.”

Three years ago, Vicksburg police officers became the highest paid in the state with starting base wages at $32,422. That is $10,000 more than Jackson and $900 less than Dallas offers new hires. It’s about $4,000 per year more than a school teacher, and there’s also an opportunity for overtime.

Leyens and the city’s two aldermen said they wanted to raise salaries to attract better qualified candidates.

“Why isn’t there a demand to get into the police department?” Leyens asked. “I expected to have a waiting list.”

Police and fire operations are the largest and most expensive city operations. The fire department has only one opening out of 126 positions.

Moffett said police departments historically have trouble filling openings. “I wish we had a list like the mayor said of people knocking our doors down, but it’s just not realistic,” he said.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the three-member, volunteer panel approved two transfers to the Vicksburg Police Department from other cities and removed two names from the list of qualified applicants at Moffett’s request. One name was removed after the applicant decided to accept a job somewhere else and another was removed following a background investigation by the department.

The commission also set the next Civil Service exam for June 5.