TAYLOR COUNTY—Across the nation, law enforcement departments are seeing a shortage of applicants when vacancies open up, and locally, the issue is present as well.
To help encourage the growth of the Taylor County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Terry A. Austin petitioned the Taylor County Civil Service Commission to lower the required test score of individuals attempting to become officers.
“I approached the commission to ask that they reduce the scoring standards for officers, because many times, we are having issues with individuals being able to pass the test. And it isn’t just our department, it is statewide. In some cases, they miss the score by just one point,” said Austin. “Charleston Police Department was one of the first to reduce their score limit, reducing it to a 60.”
He said that just because an applicant may not be a strong test taker, or may be having a bad day, doesn’t mean that they would make a poor officer.
The Taylor County Civil Service Commission, comprised of President John E. Whitescarver, Tom Hart and David “Rusty” Efaw, met in the Taylor County Commission meeting room at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday to discuss the matter.
Hart revealed that after lengthy discussion and viewing the appeal from many angles, the commission voted to lower the minimum score from 70 to 65, which is still above that of other departments throughout the state, in a vote of two to one.
“The bottom line is we must do everything possible to ensure adequate law enforcement for the safety of our citizens and other officers,” voiced Hart. “Although the minimum standard was reduced, we are still exceeding the standards set for by the state.”
Whitescarver shared that as the representative of the Taylor County Sheriff’s Department and its officers, he voted in favor of reducing the scores at the request of Sheriff Austin.
“Sheriff Austin based his recommendation on what is being done throughout departments across the state,” he noted. “And he presented us with some really good reasoning for his suggestion.”
Whitescarver noted that he existing minimum score had been adopted by a previous commission, and that with the current shortage of officers, and furthermore less and less applicants in the field, something needed to be done.
“We need good officers out there. Our communities depend on it,” he expressed. “But right now, there is an issue getting officers. And just because someone doesn’t score well on one test, doesn’t mean they would be a subpar selection.”
The written examination is just one of a handful of tests that an officer must take before being eligible for hire.
“Applicants must also submit to and pass a background check, a psychiatric evaluation and a physical fitness test,” explained Hart. “Once those are completed successfully, the commission can make a recommendation that the individual is fit for hire.”
In addition, applicants must pass a pre-employment drug testing, as well as a polygraph examination.
“Of course, it is ultimately the sheriff who has the final determination in pursing an applicant,” Hart added.
Once Austin has made his selections, he presents them to the Taylor County Commission for hiring approval. The officer must then attend the West Virginia State Police Academy to undergo extensive training.
All persons desiring to take the Civil Service Examination to qualify for appointment to the Taylor County Sheriff’s department in a position as a Deputy Sheriff must first submit an application at www.personnel.wv.gov.
All examinations are administered online.
For more information, please contact the Taylor County Sheriff’s Department by phone at 304-265-3428.