Civil service exams scheduled for today

Third round of testing this year for police and fire departments

The El Dorado Civil Service Commission will administer a third round of civil service exams today in ongoing efforts to keep the ranks filled for the city's police and fire departments.

Today's tests are open to entry-level candidates.

The ECSC will convene for a meeting at 5 p.m. at the El Dorado Police Department headquarters.

All rounds of testing for the El Dorado Fire Department -- written exams, oral interviews and physical agility -- are expected to be completed by the start of the meeting and commissioners plan to certify the results at the start of the meeting.

Written exams for the police department are expected to be completed and certified after the ECSC meeting.

The testing cycle is the third to be offered this year.

Civil service exams -- entry level and promotional -- were administered in April.

EPD Chief Kenny Hickman called for a second round of tests in July, telling commissioners that the results of the spring testing cycle did not yield enough qualified candidates to fill vacancies for uniformed personnel.

Each department has 52 slots for uniformed personnel.

Only one entry-level candidate passed the EPD's civil service in April and following a second round of civil service exams in July, the EPD was still left with four vacancies.

Another batch of tests were scheduled for October, per a request from the EPD.

EFD Chief Chad Mosby said the fire department was able to fill its openings in April but the department opted to participate in the follow-up testing cycles to keep its eligibility list stacked.

For the past several years, both departments have contended with waning interest in careers in law enforcement and fire service -- a trend that is affecting police and fire departments across the country.

Hickman and Mosby have said their respective professions are dealing with retirements and higher-paying jobs in other police and fire departments and the private sector.

Hickman added that the erosion of community-law enforcement relations has also added to recruitment and retention challenges.

The police and fire departments have worked with the ECSC to come up with new ideas and strategies for marketing and recruiting, including utilizing social/digital media and ramping up visits to college and high school campuses (the minimum age is 18 for a firefighter in Arkansas and 21 for a police officer).

The EPD and civil service commissioners have also discussed developing a campaign to target candidates with a military background.

Hickman and Capt. Jason Dumas, also of the EPD, have said hiring certified officers has helped to keep the EPD afloat over the past two years.

Earlier this year, the EPD requested and was granted an across-the-board pay increase in order to boost salaries, attract and retain talent and compete with other police departments in the region.

Starting/base pay for entry-level positions increased from $18.08 an hour to $20.30.

At the start of 2024 city-budget talks on Sept. 27, Mosby approached the El Dorado City Council/Finance Committee with three options that included pay increases of 4%, 5% and 6% for EFD personnel.

A salary study showed that the hourly rate for entry-level positions within the EFD -- $12.90 firefighter/non-emergency medical technician -- is among the lowest in the state, Mosby continued.

Out of 43 Arkansas cities that were listed in the study for comparison, the EFD's starting pay ranks 36th, lagging behind Magnolia at $15.14 and Camden at $13.16.

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