Police chief lobbies to alter job test

The next chief of the Marietta Police Department will likely be solidified late this year through a civil service examination. But it is yet to be seen whether that examination will adhere to the previous standard-a single written test to determine the promoted-or a new more comprehensive method proposed by the city’s current chief of police and favored by some of the potential candidates.

Current police chief Brett McKitrick expects to retire next year, ending his 20-year tenure as head of the department. But McKitrick, who scored highest on two written examinations to secure the spot in 1995, said using the single test score to select the chief is not the best method for multiple reasons.

“The old way is ‘Here’s the test and high score is the chief.’ Somebody that does well on a test, doesn’t necessarily make them a good chief,” said McKitrick, who added that he might not have been appointed chief 20 years ago under the method he is proposing.

The method involves hiring an outside agency-McKitrick is recommending the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police Advisory Services-to administer an exam and conduct classic, face-to-face job interviews. Points for seniority and internal evaluations would also be factored into the outside agency’s final recommendation for the position, which has an annual salary between $69,539 to $72,235 depending on which pay grade the successful candidate enters under.

But the proposed method would likely cost more, and will ultimately depend on the recommendation of the Civil Service Commission.

Commission member Alan Hunt speculated the commission would likely push for the most fair option, but added that cost also factors into their testing decisions.

The commission is budgeted around $2,400 for civil service exams and related services this year, according to budgetary information from the City of Marietta Auditor’s office.

The switch would also mean more relevant written testing than that given in 1995. That exam was a nationwide test that catered more toward large, metropolitan departments. Despite scoring in the top quarter percentile nationwide, none of the five candidates technically passed the first exam, recalled McKitrick.

Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite and Det. Sgt. Greg Nohe, two of the six department employees that will be eligible for the promotion to police chief, said they favor the proposed new method.

Also eligible to take the exam are sergeants Rod Hupp, Len Ritchie, Bob Heddleston, and Roy Kampmeier.

“An assessment center is going to look at the whole individual rather than how he can perform on a written test on a given day,” said Waite.

Waite also took the chief’s civil service exam in 1995 and recalled inapplicable questions-things relating to different precincts and specialized units which the department did not have at the time.

“It wasn’t geared toward a city this size. You give us a test geared toward our city, then I don’t think we’ll have the problem we had last time,” he said.

City Safety-Service Director Jonathan Hupp said he favors a written exam that focuses more on running a department in a small city.

“Why should the guys be studying things based on what happens in Columbus? If there’s a better way to get a better prepared chief for our small municipal perspective, we need to examine that option,” said Hupp.

McKitrick said his hope is the exam process will happen in December and the city will know the identity of its future police chief by Jan. 1.