Making a change in the way police officers are hired is just the first step that could improve the diversity of the Lima Police Department. The next step should be addressing the procedures involved in hiring its police chief.
That, too, is in need of change.
Last week the Civil Service Board officially approved a change to the city’s “Rule of 10,” thus opening the city’s hiring lists for police officers to anyone who is able to score higher than 70% on civil service administered tests. Lima Mayor David Berger, who trumpeted the change, believes it answers some of the concerns minority candidates have in seeking law enforcement jobs. He explained the former rule had created too many scenarios where individuals questioned the fairness of the hiring practices. It is believed the new system provides a greater opportunity for people who are qualified – but not good test takers – to become police officers.
The new procedure for hiring police officers was hammered out in just over a month after civil service board members initially discussed the rule change with the city administration. It is contingent on city council’s approval, which is expected.
The fact that the mayor’s office and the Civil Service Board were able to initiate the change so quickly raises hope thst this council — unlike previous ones — will also push for new hiring procedures for Lima’s police chief. The Lima News has advocated such a move for nearly 10 years. Currently, the Lima charter allows only for promotion to the chief’s job from within. No one from the outside can be considered.
This is foolish as it doesn’t allow the city the opportunity to consider job candidates who may have new and different ideas, be they Black, Latino or white.
Our suggestion has nothing to do with the performance of current Chief Kevin Martin or anyone who has served as chief before him. Rather, it’s about opening Lima’s police force to new ideas and other qualified candidates for chief.
Bringing in an outside candidate isn’t unusual. Businesses and nonprofits do it all the time. No one is guaranteed a path to a promotion just because an opening occurs.
Residents deserve to hear the ideas of candidates who have no connection to the current police force. If it turns out an existing LPD major is the best candidate — be it through testing, interviewing or some other determining factor — give that person the job.
The city has been taking more of a long-term, grow-your-own approach to minority hiring. We believe the idea has merit; it just doesn’t go far enough.
The goal should be hiring the best person possible for a job while at the same time building a police force that reflects the diversity of the community. To accomplish that, all barriers need to be removed from the charter, including that of outside hiring of its police chief.
The time is now right for the civil service board, the administration and city council to work together in changing how the police chief’s position is filled.