FAIRMONT — The Marion County Sheriff’s Department is looking to hire three new deputies amid a growing national trend of fewer people seeking to work in law enforcement.
According to the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit agency dedicated to supporting law enforcement, 63% of police agencies in the U.S. experienced a decrease in officer candidate applications in the past year. In the past five years, there has been a more than 41% decrease.
And those statistics were compiled prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial unrest now so prominent across America.
“We’re looking to fill three vacant positions that have been vacated either through retirement or by deputies leaving to take other jobs,” said Sheriff Jimmy Riffle. “Our application deadline was this week.”
The starting salary for a deputy sheriff is $42,000 per year, not including a $2,500 sign-on bonus, according to the sheriff.
“If you’re a certified officer at the time of hire, the $2,500 bonus kicks in immediately. If you’re not certified and not a current police officer, the successful hire will have to attend the State Police Training Academy in Institute, West Virginia, to receive a certification, which needs to be done within a year’s time of the hiring,” said Riffle.
The civil service exam for potential deputies will be conducted on Sept. 25 at the Marion County Election Center. No prior policing experience is necessary in order to become a sheriff’s deputy.
“The requirements are pretty simple. You need to be at least 18 years of age and a U.S. citizen,” Riffle said.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Department currently has 27 active deputies on the force. It hopes to have a full contingent of 30 deputy sheriffs in the weeks ahead.
Here’s how the process works.
“Qualified candidates must first pass both written and physical tests,” Riffle said. “From there, we hope to get a very good list of qualified candidates after the testing cycle is completed.”
Each candidate must undergo a physical agility test, that includes completing 18 push-ups within one minute, 29 sit-ups within one minute, and run 1.5 miles within 14 minutes, 36 seconds.
Once the written and physical tests are satisfactorily completed, the hiring process moves forward, said Riffle.
“After that, a list of certified candidates is obtained by the Civil Service Commission. The sheriff then requests three names be provided for consideration, which are usually the first, second and third names on the list according to test scores,” according to the sheriff. “Those three candidates are then interviewed, there’s a background investigation that’s conducted, and if everything is satisfactory, the choice of a deputy sheriff is made.”
In the event the sheriff’s department is hiring more than one deputy, as it is seeking to do now, the process repeats. Riffle explained how that works.
“For the two who aren’t chosen, they go back into the line. At that point, the sheriff is given the next list of qualified candidates and the same process continues until we either hire three people or the list of eligible candidates is exhausted,” he said.