OCEAN CITY – With one testing date remaining, Ocean City’s police chief said his department is optimistic more will apply for the resort’s seasonal law enforcement program.
In Monday’s meeting of the Ocean City Police Commission, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Chief Ross Buzzuro told resort officials he remains optimistic about the agency’s ongoing recruitment efforts for the coming summer season.
For decades, the OCPD has enhanced its workforce with seasonal officers and public safety aides (PSA) during the summer months. And while interest in the seasonal program has waned in recent years, officials say recruitment statistics for this year are better than anticipated.
“We remain optimistic,” he said. “We’re surprised to see more this year than last year.”
Applications for new seasonal officer positions had increased from 109 last year to 156 this year, according to Buzzuro, and the number of failures had decreased from 61 to 53. To date, the OCPD has hired 26 new seasonal officers, although 53 remain in the testing process.
But officials noted the number of applications for new PSAs had decreased from last year.
“This year so far we had 57,” Buzzuro said. “Last year we had 71. There were less failures this year than last year. We hired 10, and 39 remain in the process.”
Buzzuro told commission members this week those who applied for PSA and seasonal officer positions continue to make their way through the testing process. He said the police department would hold one more testing date in February.
“We’re optimistic, weather permitting, that they do show up in good number,” he said.
Commission member and Council President Matt James questioned if the decrease in PSA applications related to advancements within the seasonal program.
“Is it possible with the increase in officer applications and the decrease in PSA applications that a lot of the PSAs that we had previously are applying for officer positions?,” asked James.
Buzzuro said he believes that to be the case for some of the officer positions.
“We do have some that have matriculated to officer positions,” he said. “That’s the trajectory of what we’re seeing. We’re seeing public safety aides move into officer positions. Year after year, that continues to increase.”
When asked about returning seasonal officers, officials said 19 of the 45 seasonal officers would stay with the department this year. However, nine of those 19 individuals have since been hired fulltime.
“We hired nine of them for full-time officers,” said Capt. Elton Harmon. “It went from 19 to 10.”
Officials also attributed the decrease in returning officers to the department’s eligibility requirements.
“We do have a number of returning officers,” Buzzuro noted. “Their shelf life is two years so those that worked with us last year, we are seeing an interest in those coming back with us to some degree.”
“Some of those 45 weren’t eligible to come back because it’s their second year,” he said.
Buzzuro on Monday also presented the commission with a report on police activity for the month of January.
From January 2020 to January 2021, officer calls for service decreased 50.4% while citizen calls for service decreased 6.2%. In the top 25 calls for service, traffic stops decreased from 411 to 219, citizen assists decreased from 109 to 77 and EMS assists decreased from 67 to 58.
“This is directly correlated to COVID-19,” he said, “less visitors this year versus last year at this time.”