OCEAN CITY – As the Ocean City Police Department prepares for the upcoming summer season, Police Chief Ross Buzzuro shared his recruitment concerns this week.
On Monday, Buzzuro presented the Ocean City Police Commission with an update on recruitment efforts for seasonal officers and public safety aides.
“We have seen a dropoff in candidates,” he said, “about 40% on the seasonal officer [side] and about 30% on the public safety [side].”
As of the first January testing date in 2020, 62 candidates had applied for seasonal police officer positions. At the same time last year, the number of candidates exceeded 100.
Buzzuro told the commission the department had 32 seasonal officers returning for the 2020 summer season. But he said the number of applicants for the seasonal program had decreased in the last five years.
“Right now, this is very, very concerning as we move into 2020,” he said. “This trend has continued now for a number of years.”
Buzzuro noted that the department visited roughly 80 colleges and university with the hopes of attracting applicants. But he said recruitment efforts have been challenging.
“Those deans or professors in the criminal justice programs across the board are having a reduced number of students, young folks entering criminal justice programs and law enforcement across the country, let alone on the east coast,” he said. “Even right here in Maryland, I’ve seen a decrease. It continues to be challenging for us as a profession.”
On the public safety aide side, 52 candidates had applied as of the first January testing date of 2020. At the same time last year, that number exceeded 80. This year, 37 public safety aides are returning to the department.
Buzzuro told the commission that the department would continue to review the situation internally. He said he was hoping the next testing date on Jan. 18 would attract more applicants for seasonal officer and public safety aide positions.
“Year after year we’ve made it work,” he said. “We continued and were able to attract good, young people to join us. But we are at a sticking point. Internally, we are going to be reviewing this. We’re looking at meeting this week on this as we prepare for January’s testing.”
Buzzuro said the department was looking for seasonal officers and public safety aides to fill 146 positions this coming summer. But he questioned if the agency could reach its quota.
“We don’t know if we’re going to make that or come close to it,” he said. “As I said, it’s challenging and we are being optimistic moving forward. But it’s just a tough environment we find ourselves in.”
Buzzuro also presented the commission this week with a report on crime activity for the month of December.
“If we look at December activity, there’s only a slight variance from last year,” he said.
The police department reported a 23.4% increase in officer calls for service and a 4.2% decrease in citizen calls for service. In the top 25 calls for service, the number of traffic stops decreased from 480 to 347 and the number of calls to assist citizens decreased from 97 to 84.
“We’re in line with last year, almost to a T …,” he said. “Overall, it was a pretty good month.”