Oregon City Council recently approved a request to allow two men over the age of 35 to take a civil service test in hopes of getting hired in the police department
Council in July considered passing an ordinance that would set the maximum age requirement to 35 for those who want to join the police department, but would grant waivers under certain conditions.
Under the Ohio Revised Code, unless provided by ordinance, the maximum age for a new officer is 35.
“If we do nothing, the administration would follow state law,” Administrator Mike Beazley said at a committee of the whole meeting on June 18.
Police Chief Mike Navarre had said at the meeting that the city had previously hired a new officer who was 37 years old “in violation of state law.”
“I think it’s important to clear up that ambiguity for prospective applicants who are interested in becoming Oregon police officers,” said Navarre. “We’re getting calls on a test in October. They want to know what the age limit is. We are telling them that state law says it’s 35 because council has not acted affirmatively to change that. I would personally like to see it cleared up. I personally think that 35 is the right age. It’s the most common age.”
Navarre had expressed concerns that officers who are hired after 35 years old would be over 60, “out on road patrol, wrestling, fighting, getting into pursuits” before they are eligible to retire.
“It’s a tough job for someone when they get into their 60s, and most officers have to attain 25 years of experience to qualify for their pension,” said Navarre. “If we hire them in their 30s, they’re going to be into their 60s before they are eligible to retire. We can’t force them to retire. So they are going to want to stay. It’s tough on someone when they get to that age to do the job the young patrol officers are doing right now.”
City council could provide a waiver to people over 35 years old who they deem worthy.
“Council would always have that option,” Mayor Mike Seferian said at the June 18 meeting. “We can’t take that away from council. It’s something council would probably want to exercise under rare situations. It may never happen.”
At a council meeting on Sept. 24, Seferian asked council to grant a waiver to two men over the age of 35 who were interested in taking the civil service exam to become police officers in Oregon.
“Council has the ability to grant those requests to allow those people to take the test,” said Seferian. “I don’t think we’ve had a lot of discussion about what criteria we would use to allow people to take that test. At this time, the administration has no reservations in allowing these people to take the test. If you would vote to allow that to happen, these people can take the Civil Service test. Administratively, we recommend you do that until you have a safety committee meeting or a discussion on criteria that would allow or not allow people to take the test. The administration, from the mayor’s office and the police department, has no objections at this time.”
Seferian said council, not the administration, has the authority to grant the waiver.
“They would still have to finish well on the test to be considered. It doesn’t grant them the ability to just be hired, but gives them the ability to be in the running and take the test,” said Seferian.
Councilman James Seaman said the state sets the maximum age requirement at 35 out of concern that an officer at that age would have to work several more years before getting a pension.
“That’s the state’s reason. I’m not saying it’s our reason,” said Seaman. “But that is a reason that the state makes that guideline because maybe they won’t have sufficient time to obtain a decent pension. They don’t want them to start too late.”
“I think it continues to be somewhat of a gray area,” said Councilman Jerry Peach. “I support the mayor’s position that some guidelines ought to be developed. I wouldn’t want to prevent otherwise qualified individuals from at least taking the test, said Peach.