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Buffalo putting off police exam until April Applicant search expands nationwide

Buffalo is delaying its police exam for three months to expand its search for new police officers nationwide.

A local recruitment blitz produced fewer applicants than the city sought, so now the exam will be open to any U.S. citizen.

The exam has been rescheduled for April 7, and the deadline for registering will be March 2.

During the first recruitment drive, applicants were required to live in one of five Western New York counties, based on a state requirement.

But city officials said the state rule can now be waived, because they can demonstrate the need to attract more applicants.

Nearly 2,500 people registered to take the Jan. 13 exam following an aggressive blitz that included billboards, informational booths at events, and roving teams of officers.

Despite the effort, registration fell below the 3,000 to 4,000 applicants that city officials had hoped to attract.

Eight years ago, nearly 3,000 people registered for the last police exam. By the time some applicants failed the test, didn't meet other criteria or dropped out of the running for personal reasons, there were fewer than 50 people left -- enough for only one police class. The city will likely need to hire 200 to 300 new police officers in the next four years.

"Our concern is applicant flow," said Mayor Byron W. Brown. "We have cast this as the Buffalo Police Department of the future."

The city will step up local efforts to get more applicants, First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey said. It will include reaching out to block clubs and stepping up other marketing efforts.

"We're going to be doing even more on a grassroots level," Casey said.

"And you will see me play an even larger role in the [recruitment] effort," Brown added.

Human Resources Commissioner Leonard A. Matarese said the initial $70,000 marketing effort produced laudable results, given that Buffalo has lost so many young residents over the years. Under state law, police applicants cannot be over 35 years of age.

The recruitment drive seeks to attract a "different breed of officer," Matarese said, namely people who would be interested in the job in the spirit of service as opposed to adventure.

An emphasis has been placed on encouraging minorities and women to take the test.

The city has been under a federal court order for three decades to diversify its police force.

Casey said there were an adequate percentage of minorities and women in the initial pool of applicants. Matarese believes opening the door to people who live outside Western New York will increase the overall number of applicants

"I can't tell you how many calls I've received from people who live in other parts of the country and were interested in coming here. Some of them had moved away years earlier," he said. "I'm sure there are going to be a lot of happy parents."

The city is promoting the police exam on a special Web site at Matarese added that he will be contacting various military organizations around the country.

Applicants who already registered for the Jan. 13 exam do not to have reapply, Casey said. They will automatically be registered to take the April 7 test.

The starting salary for city officers is $44,229, plus health benefits. For information on minimum requirements and qualifications, call 851-5900, Ext. 226.


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