OCEAN CITY – Officials with the Ocean City Police Department continue to address the seasonal officer recruitment shortage facing the town, citing weather as a main reason many candidates failed to attend recent testing dates.
In a Police Commission meeting Monday, Police Chief Ross Buzzuro told committee members that inclement weather – including the recent storm that left nearly a foot of snow in its wake – hindered many seasonal police candidates from attending testing opportunities, but added that he holds hope for this season’s last examination on Saturday and Sunday.
“I believe the weather is going to be mild this upcoming weekend,” Buzzuro said. “So we should be pretty good.”
Although the department is behind by 14 percent in the recruitment process, Buzzuro said the quality of candidates surpasses the quantity.
“The applicants that are moving through the applicant process seem to be more qualified and we are moving toward hiring what seems like more than last year at this time,” Buzzuro said.
As of last week, 112 applicants have committed to the next testing dates on President’s Day weekend, according to Buzzuro.
“Hopefully every last one will show up,” he said.
Six weekends throughout the fall and winter months are set aside to test seasonal police officers and public safety aide candidates.
According to Buzzuro, the number of applicants for these positions who pass the examination process have dwindled in the past year.
In 2015, 179 seasonal police and 104 public safety aide applicants remained at the conclusion of testing. In 2016, those numbers decreased to 153 and 78 respectively.
“[It’s] a drop-off,” Buzzuro said. “But with the next week coming up we should see a pretty good show-up.”
Weather related obstacles aside, Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out another issue plaguing applicants – marijuana use.
According to officials, candidates who have illegally used marijuana in the three years prior to their application are automatically eliminated from the process. Meehan relayed that 13 of the 35 applicants who attended the late January examinations were disqualified because of marijuana use.
“One admitted to use four months ago in Colorado,” Meehan told committee members. “He thought it was okay due to it being legal in that state. That is the challenge that we have, I believe. That is where I think we all agree that it needs to be addressed because of the legality in numerous states now.”
Meehan said that local and state law enforcement agencies are currently working to address rules related to marijuana use.
Nevertheless, Buzzuro said the disqualification rate was 8 percent lower than last year.
“That is why we are optimistic because those that are coming through the door are better suited,” he said.
Councilman Dennis Dare, chair of the Police Commission, told members that they would continue to track the recruitment progress after testing dates conclude.
“We will have a better picture next month,” Buzzuro said. “I am cautiously optimistic.”