OCEAN CITY – Ocean City’s police department is reporting an increase in the number of applicants for seasonal law enforcement positions.
On Monday, Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro presented the Ocean City Police Commission with the most recent testing statistics for new seasonal officers and public safety aides (PSAs).
“If you take a look at police applications, this actually looks more promising than we would have thought,” Buzzuro told the commission this week. “But we are still in this, so there’s a little bit of trepidation there with getting too overly optimistic.”
For decades, the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) has enhanced its workforce with seasonal officers and PSAs during the summer months. However, the number of applicants for both programs have declined in recent years.
But Buzzuro told commission members this week the number of police applicants for the seasonal officer program had increased for 2021. During July, October and November testing dates, the department received 106 applications, marking a significant increase from the 42 applications received during the same time last year.
Buzzuro also noted that the department had six conditional offer hires for the coming season. And while 34 applicants had failed during the testing process, he told officials the percentage of failures had decreased from 50% last year to roughly 30% this year.
“We’ve been a little bit better as far as the movement through the process,” he said.
On the PSA side, the department had 22 applicants, four failures and two conditional offer hires during testing dates in July, October and November. While the number of PSA applicants had decreased slightly, Buzzuro reiterated that the number of failures had also decreased.
“We’re about half-way through our hiring this year,” Buzzuro said. “On top of that, we don’t have definitive numbers as to who will be returning and will join us again … We’ll know more what that looks like in the next couple months. It’s just too early to tell.”
Mayor Rick Meehan questioned how the department handled recruitment efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We haven’t been able to do on-site recruiting,” he said. “Are we doing virtual?”
Buzzuro replied that the police department had been in constant contact with universities and the administrators for college criminal justice programs. He attributed the increase in applicants to the department’s outreach efforts.
“That higher number is really the result of trying to get out as much as we can, putting out information and feelers and trying to get people to come back and join us,” he said.
Council President Matt James also questioned the percentage of failures.
“Did anything change in the testing guidelines or requirements from 2019 to 2020?” he asked. “It went from a 50% failure to a 30% failure.”
Buzzuro replied that nothing about the testing process had changed. He argued that if anything it was more stringent.
“We lost an entire (testing) date last year because of a weather event in October,” Capt. Elton Harmon added. “That’s reflected a little bit in those numbers. But really nothing has changed.”
Officials told commission members that testing statistics would be updated as testing dates in December, January and February conclude.
“Let’s keep pushing, pushing, pushing,” Meehan said.
Buzzuro this week also reported on the number of municipal and parking citations issued by PSAs and officers from April to December.
Over the course of nearly nine months, PSAs issued 265 payable municipal citations while officers issued 502. During that same time, PSAs issued 4,658 parking citations while officers issued 379.
Buzzuro noted that a bulk of those citations were issued during the months of June and July. In those two months, for example, the number of written citations accounted for 66% of all municipal and parking citations issued by PSAs and officers during the season.
“You can see the numbers really jump up in June and July,” he said.
Meehan stressed the importance of enforcing all of the city’s ordinances – particularly on the Boardwalk – going into the 2021 summer season.
“When we walk down the Boardwalk, if there’s somebody smoking or on a bike that’s not supposed to be, we engage,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you have to give citations, it doesn’t mean you have to arrest them … From the PSA point of view, they really need to be trained to do that, and not just walk by.”