West Monroe Police Chief Jeff Terrell says his department and other civil service agencies cannot quickly recruit entry-level officers or firefighters thanks to state laws that lengthen their hiring process with delays as long as eight months
Currently, when a civil service agency like the West Monroe Police Department needs to hire officers for entry-level vacant positions, it must ask the local civil service board to vote on applicants’ requests to take the civil service test. Later, a civil service board also must approve the test scores achieved by applicants on the civil service test before the hiring process may proceed.
“There is no reason in the world that we can’t speed this process up,” Terrell told the state Senate Committee on Senate and Governmental Affairs on May 7.
Terrell testified to the committee in support of Senate Bill 209, sponsored by state Sen. Jay Morris, R-Monroe.
Terrell told The Ouachita Citizen he visited with Morris at the senator’s office on North 7th Street to see whether the hiring process could be sped up so that departments like West Monroe’s did not have to compete with a sheriff’s office or municipal agency. Those agencies could hire entry-level personnel almost immediately.
“It’s a competitive disadvantage for us,” Terrell said. “I’m competing with agencies throughout Ouachita Parish, and it’s difficult.”
For example, if an applicant to an entry-level civil service position at West Monroe missed the civil service test administered locally, the applicant could take the test administered in a place such as Denham Springs, but the civil service board in Denham Springs would have to approve the test scores before the test scores could be received by the civil service board in West Monroe, according to Terrell.
Sometimes, a civil service board might delay meeting to vote on test scores if only one applicant took the test, he said.
SB 209 proposes to make the state Office of State Examiner responsible for maintaining a statewide list of eligible employees instead of civil service boards. If approved, the legislation also would require the State Examiner certify test scores instead of local service boards among other changes to reduce delays.
“This process has been the same since I was hired 30 years ago,” Terrell said. “Nothing has changed.”
And yet many other things in the world have changed during that same time period, said Terrell, sparking chuckles among committee members.
The committee favorably reported SB 209 to the Senate, which approved the bill on a 36-0 vote on May 11. The House of Representatives’ Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs is expected to weigh the legislation soon.
Morris noted that State Examiner Adrienne Bordelon, whose office administers the civil service test, supported the legislation.
“It’s going to let everything be done a lot quicker,” Morris said.
The legislation also would require that the civil service test be administered online by next year.
“Once it goes online, I think it will save money,” Morris said. “I think it really will.”
Morris noted that test administrators with the State Examiner’s office had to travel across the state to administer exams.
“They’ll still have to travel, but it will be less,” Morris said.
State Sen. Mike Reese, a member of the Committee on Senate and Governmental Affairs, commended Morris and Terrell for the legislation.
“I want to applaud you for this efficiency,” said Reese, R-Leesville.