The deadline to act on your dream of being an Akron police officer or firefighter is Friday.
That’s the cutoff day to apply for the 78 job openings the city has been advertising heavily for the past several weeks.
Akron police are looking to add 40 officers. Firefighters are expecting to add 38 to their ranks.
The openings are a rarity in the safety fields, where employee turnover is low and careers tend to last for 20 or more years.
“People see this as a lifetime career opportunity,” said Fire Capt. Al Bragg of the 2,300 applications the city already has received. “Some of us are very lucky to have a lifelong dream realized. And those who have signed up, they have a chance to have their dream realized.”
Candidates can apply online at www.akron.ohio.gov until 11:59 p.m. Friday or in person until the close of business at the city’s personnel department inside the CitiCenter Building at 146 S. High St.
The jobs are open to residents living inside or outside the city of Akron. However, bonus testing points are awarded for Akron residents, as well as military veterans or college graduates.
Applying to take a civil service test is the first of several steps in the hiring process. Already, more than 1,080 men and women have applied to take the police exam and more than 1,250 intend to take the firefighter test.
Firefighter candidates will test Feb. 3-4; prospective cops will test Feb. 1-2.
Safety force recruiters are quick to remind candidates not to be overwhelmed by the initial number of applicants. The numbers tend to dwindle quickly.
Because of the rigors involved in the hiring process — from intelligence and physical fitness testing to background and psychological exams — dozens of candidates are whittled along the way.
For example, some past safety-force hires have come from the bottom of the list because others above have been eliminated for various reasons.
For this reason, and to increase the number of minority candidates, police and firefighters have used safety workers and advertising to recruit as many applicants as possible.
They have visited neighborhood groups and college campuses. They have bought advertising on billboards and radios and used social media websites to spread the word.
Police and firefighters said they had a “friendly competition” to see which department could recruit the higher number of applicants.
“We want the police to do well, and we want to do well ourselves,” Bragg said. “I think the fact that we combined efforts made it easier, and I think in a short amount of time, we’ve been able to get a good number of people signed up.”
Patrol Officer Carol Hill, a 17-year veteran of the department, said the recruiting process she helped organize has had an added benefit of building better relations between police and residents.
“We wanted the community to see police officers in a different light,” she said. “They usually see police sending a family member to jail, but the job is more than that. We’re out there serving the public, showing that we’re human and trying to help solve problems.
“So, it was good to talk to people in the community to see how they feel about being a police officer.”
Bragg and Hill said the community campaigns also have helped encourage blacks and women to apply. Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic has said he would like to improve the number of minorities in order to better reflect the city’s demographics.
Akron’s population is about 30 percent black, and 20 percent of the police force is black. At the fire department, blacks account for 16 percent of personnel.
“Akron is a diverse community, and we all benefit from diversity,” Bragg said. “We want our safety forces to have that same benefit.’’
There are age restrictions that only apply on the date of the February tests. Police allow candidates between the ages of 21 and 31; it’s ages 18 to 31 for firefighters. The age restrictions apply to candidate’s age on the day of the civil service exam and not the actual date of hire.
Akron received a $6.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency SAFER grant program to cover the cost of hiring the new firefighters.
The city’s website also provides more details on the hiring process for each department.
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.