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Superior Police and Fire Commission changes policy to bolster hiring

The Superior Fire Department would be able to streamline the hiring process for experienced professionals.

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Superior Fire Department Capt. Jeff Allen, left, helps the four new firefighters push over a car during training Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, at fire department headquarters in Superior. A new policy implemented by the Police and Fire Commission would allow the department to hire experienced firefighters. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
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The Superior Fire Department is enhancing its ability to hire firefighters without having to wait for a new certified hire list to be made.

Under a rule change adopted by the police and fire commission Monday, Nov. 22, the Fire Department can hire qualified firefighters with at least one year of full-time professional firefighting experience without going through the lengthy examination process that determines who is placed on the certified hiring list.

Qualified firefighters eligible to be hired as lateral transfer applicants must be eligible for Wisconsin Firefighter II certification and a nationally registered emergency medical technician or licensed in the state of Wisconsin. Lateral transfers can apply at any time for consideration for employment.

“The goal is to just increase our chances of getting someone hired when we need to get somebody hire,” fire Chief Scott Gordon said. “We’ve had several times where our list has run out of viable candidates and we have to wait another year to get back to a hiring ability. We would like to hire people laterally who don’t have to go through the traditional testing process.”

Lateral transfer firefighters would be hired at the pay scale and with the vacation time that reflects their professional experience, Gordon said.

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Volunteer firefighters can still apply, but they would have to go through the traditional testing process to be hired by the Superior Fire Department.

“We’re not trying to sleight our volunteers,” Gordon said. “The hard part is it’s harder to quantify the job description of a volunteer firefighter. Because, by definition, you could be a volunteer firefighter and just never elect to go on a call.”

The idea of the lateral transfer is that another agency has already quantified what the person’s credentials are, Gordon said.

The police and fire commission implemented a similar policy for the Superior Police Department in January.

“We’ve always kind of struggled with not being able to bring in candidates from other agencies in an efficient way and thought that would be a benefit,” police Chief Nicholas Alexander said.

Alexander introduced the idea as a way to bolster the police department's ability to hire to fill vacancies at a time when it was receiving fewer applications to replenish its certified hiring lists. Under a side letter agreement with the union, the police department is able to offer wages and benefits commiserate with experience, but seniority remains based on the date of hire.

“We did just conduct our first process of lateral candidates,” Alexander said. “I think we had three or four people apply, and three of them decided to show up for the interview and physical agility, and we’re going to be considering them for an appointment here in the near future, so it’s going well. It’s given us a few more candidates to consider for employment and the bonus of that is they come with certifications so they won’t require recruit school … they go straight into field training.”

The 14-week field training program in Superior allows probationary officers to gain knowledge and experience with increasing responsibility and allows training officers within the department to evaluate their suitability for the law enforcement profession.

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The lateral transfer policy in the police department hasn’t eliminated the traditional practice of testing and interviewing candidates with the top individuals being included in a hiring list certified by the PFC.

It won’t change in the fire department either.

Gordon said the fire department’s lateral transfer policy will be similar to the one in the police department.

“We’re actually doing our traditional hiring list right now,” Gordon said. “We’re not looking at our lateral as in lieu of our traditional process. So, we wouldn’t use this until after our current list is expunged. So, we would be well into 2022 before we use it.”

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