By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer
They came from all walks of life - college students sporting goatees, Army veterans with their military bearing, middle-aged factory workers hoping for better pay and Elder High School graduates forever dreaming of doing police work.
Saturday morning, 489 Tristate men and women walked through the doors of the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center undaunted, despite traumatic stories of police life. Each knew about the Cincinnati police officer whose fatal shooting of an unarmed teen led to the April 2001 riots and a U.S. Department of Justice command for landmark police reforms.
For two hours, the Cincinnati Police recruits hunkered over a civil service exam to try and join the exclusive ranks of the Cincinnati Police Department. The recruits will learn within a month whether they made the cut.
"I would have done a lot better with my glasses," said Larry Smith, a 52-year-old Bridgetown man who came loping out of the center. The factory worker was encouraged to take the test by his two sons, who are Cincinnati Police officers, and his daughter, Christy, 22, who also took the exam.
"I would actually like to help people and feel like I'm contributing something rather than sitting in an office all day," said his daughter, a University of Cincinnati criminal justice student who will not be swayed from her career goals by her worried brothers or the incessant spotlight on the police department.
Officer Gene Seay said the police department is in the midst of hiring additional officers.Since August, the department has intensified its recruiting efforts, doubling its recruiting team by assigning four more officers to the task.
It has intensified recruitment efforts by touting the benefits of being a Cincinnati Police officer at a greater number of job fairs and on college campuses across the country. For the first time, they are testing recruits out of state and also have launched a major advertising and marketing campaign.
The hope is to get better and brighter recruits. "We're looking for folks who really want to do this. This is serious work," Officer Seay said. "With all the turmoil (and) with the riots, people are still knocking on the door."
There are about 1,050 police officers protecting the Queen City today.
Of the hundreds who took Saturday's test, only a small fraction will be invited to take the physical eligibility test and undergo a background investigation. Up to 60 could have a shot at entering the Cincinnati Police Academy this winter, Officer Seay said.
New graduates receive a $31,300 annual salary and potentially could receive $49,600 a year.
Daniel Burt, 21, graduated from Elder High School in 2000. The Western Hills resident was working at HH Gregg in Colerain Township when the April 2001 riots happened.
Across the store's TV screens, he saw rioters rage through downtown streets, shattering windowpanes and hurling over hotdog stands.
The footage deepened his commitment to police work. "It actually encouraged me more. If I help one person, that one person could influence others and we could appease tensions," said Burt, who wants to do police work in District One, which patrols downtown, Over-the-Rhine and West End.
When: 9 a.m. July 26
Where: Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center, 525 Elm St., downtown
To get an application: Cincinnati Police Department's Human Resources Office, 805 Central Ave., Suite 200; the department's five district stations; and at www.Cincinnati-oh.gov.
Deadline: July 18
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