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Applicant pool grows for Tiffin police chief

TIFFIN - For awhile, it seemed that no one wanted to be police chief of Tiffin.

Two advertising campaigns produced a grand total of four applicants for the position, which opened up when former Chief Tom Steyer became Seneca County sheriff Jan. 1. Mayor Bernard Hohman offered the job to one of them, a state official who turned down the city's salary offer.

City officials hope the third time will turn the trick. A higher salary range and advertisements in the state's major newspapers have attracted 13 applicants, and Mayor Hohman hopes for more candidates by the July 20 deadline.

“At least that's been solved,” the mayor said yesterday. “I would expect that this time we're going to get some kind of a group to pick from.”

City Administrator Wayne Stephens, a former Tiffin police chief, said the city expanded its pool of potential candidates by advertising for officers ranked sergeant and above. Earlier solicitations called for candidates to have the rank of lieutenant or higher.

“That has definitely helped,” he said. “And that made sense to do that, because there are some departments where, frankly, no rank above sergeant exists.”

In smaller departments, a sergeant may have the kind of administrative duties needed to prepare an officer to lead a department, Mr. Stephens said. “There are some places where, as a matter of practicality, the rank of sergeant is equivalent to the rank of lieutenant in our department,” he said.

Mr. Stephens said the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, which is assisting Tiffin with its search, warned the city months ago that its proposed pay range would limit the number of applicants.

The city raised the top salary for the police chief from $52,000 to $57,000 after Scott Blough, an official with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, declined the job in late March.

“The salary was comparatively low,” Mr. Stephens acknowledged. “The cost of living is low in Tiffin, and the wages here kind of reflect the cost of living in the area. And in comparison to some other places, that makes our wage scale low.”

Dr. Dick Thomas, director of advisory services for the police chiefs' association, said the group was puzzled by the lack of applicants.

“I think it's a good position there. I think they were surprised, and we were too, that they didn't have more takers,” Dr. Thomas said. “The location in the state is very good, my understanding is the department has been running well. It's not a trouble spot or anything like that.”

Since January, Capt. Frank Iannantuno has headed the department as acting chief.

“It's not that we don't have good law enforcement going on now,” Mayor Hohman said. “The acting chief ... is doing a good job of making it work.”

Dr. Thomas said Tiffin is not alone in its struggle to hire a chief.

“I think we're seeing it also in other departments,” he said. “And I don't have a real good explanation for it. Naturally, the amount that's being paid can be a factor.

“I think we're finding that for whatever reason, senior officers, those right below the rank of chief, decide to continue doing what they've doing without taking on the additional burden of being chief of police,” Dr. Thomas said.

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