Oregon City Council is considering a proposed ordinance that would set the maximum age requirement to 35 for those who want to join the police department.
Ohio Revised Code states that, unless provided by ordinance, the maximum age for a new officer is 35, Police Chief Mike Navarre said at a May 14 council meeting. “The city of Oregon is silent to that requirement. We are proposing 35.”
Navarre said Maumee, Toledo and Bowling Green have the maximum age requirement of 35 while Rossford, Sylvania Township, Sylvania, Lake Township, Perrysburg Township and Perrysburg do not.
“The ordinance would make the city of Oregon consistent with what is provided in the Ohio Revised Code.”
The city, before 1990, had set the maximum age for new hires at 35. That was changed to comply with the Age Discrimination Act, according to Navarre.
“Law enforcement has since been granted a permanent exemption from the ADA law,” said Navarre. “And more and more departments across the country are going back and imposing the maximum age limitation and that’s what I’m proposing.”
The ordinance also asked for a change in the vision requirement for police officer applicants.
“Currently, we require applicants to have uncorrected vision in each eye at 20/40,” said Navarre. “I believe this to be unrealistic. This is supported by three different doctors that we have spoken to. The standard that is used most often is 20/100. That is also a state standard for fire fighters. There is not a state standard for police officers. There are different standards being used – most of them are 20/100. We feel that with the current standard of 20/40, we are losing good candidates. In fact, I know that we have lost candidates off the current list who could not pass that vision requirement.”
Councilman James Seaman asked Navarre if a 40-year-old police officer from another community could apply to the Oregon Police Department.
“Under the current ordinance, yes,” said Navarre. “But if you pass this ordinance, he would be required to come to you for an exemption.”
Councilman Mike Sheehy asked if a separate ordinance would be needed to waive the age requirement for an extraordinary candidate that is over 35 years old.
“A waiver would have to be done by ordinance,” said Administrator Mike Beazley. “Ultimately, that is the method. City council has authority to change any law or ordinance with a subsequent ordinance. So it’s not necessary to say it in this ordinance. Putting it in there gives notice to the world that there’s a method for seeking a waiver and makes it clear it could be done by council in the future.”
“It would be my intention to add that language to this ordinance so that it’s clear that the ability for this council to act in an extraordinary situation is there,” said Sheehy.
“Is it that big of a problem that we need to address this?” asked Councilman Terry Reeves.
“The original rationale is, how old do you want a police officer out there possibly running down criminals,” said Mayor Mike Seferian.
“Personally, I don’t think it’s a problem. I’m against setting an age limit for any kind of hire,” said Reeves. “I don’t like the fact that we limit ourselves.”
“I think what we’re saying is, we don’t limit ourselves with this, we limit anyone applying. If we thought the right scenario was there, we could hire someone that is 70 years old by provision of a waiver from council,” said Seferian.
Navarre said the city should pass an ordinance that complies with the Ohio Revised Code, making the maximum age at 35.
“If you don’t want it at 35, then you should pass an ordinance making it 40, 45, 50,” said Navarre.
Law Director Paul Goldberg said most police departments have maximum age limits set at 35.
“There are some that are younger than 35. The city of Akron has a limit of 31. They were sued last year, saying it was discriminatory. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City of Akron,” said Goldberg. “There are some large communities – the cities of Cincinnati and Columbus – that just don’t have a limit.”
Goldberg said a few cities decided not to have age limits because they have had problems hiring police officers.
“There seems to be a feeling of some people in those communities that older police officers could be helpful because they are more mature and have more time solving problems and living life,” said Goldberg. “But more often than not, there is a requirement.”
Council returned that part of the ordinance regarding age limits to the administration for modification.
Council approved the new vision requirements for police officers at 20/100 uncorrected at a meeting on May 21.
Council expects to revisit the age limit matter at a meeting on Monday.