HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg City Council approved a proposal Tuesday to hire a third party company to create a new system for personnel selection in the Hattiesburg Police and Hattiesburg Fire departments.
Council members voted 3-1-1, with Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado opposed and Ward 5 Councilman Henry Naylor abstaining, to hire IO Solutions, a human resources consulting firm that specializes in personnel selection, to improve the civil service rules governing the departments and implement a "best practices" system of promotional testing and freeze any promotions until the new system is implemented.
"I think what it's going to do is you're going to ensure that the proper people, not just men, men and women, are promoted to the positions that they seek," said Kim Bradley, Ward 1 councilman. "It's going to be about their qualities and their credentials, and not about who somebody wants to be the next chief or the next assistant chief."
The change comes after a lieutenant with the Hattiesburg Fire Department questioned promotion policies and procedures within the department.
"If we're going to build that department back because I mean, there's no doubt, you can talk to the firemen - people present and people who've gone on - there is a major morale problem there," Bradley said. "We have got to ensure those people that everything's fair, everything's on the up and up and everybody has a legitimate shot, and I think the only way to do that, right now, is to come in and build the practice back. Not totally starting over, but I think that you can talk with your civil service people that are there. I think, all but one of their terms expire, I think, at the end of June, (but) still, let's work with them. Let's work with who the replacements are going to be, meet with the fire department, meet with the police department so they understand that this is there to benefit them. It's not to benefit anybody else but them to give them a fair shake."
With both departments short on members, Bradley said this change should help with recruitment.
"Absolutely, especially on the fire department side," he said. "The police department, they do have a good number that show up, but finding quality people who can pass the test and go through the process, and once they show up for the training, you lose a lot during that time. It's a boot camp, but the fire department is a different matter. We just don't have a lot of people that are seeking the opportunity to joining the fire department. You can look at the number of people who come for the pretesting, and it's just very, very low. Pay has been a problem. The council addressed that problem now. Now, after your training, you're going to be $30,000 annually, and then you're going to grow from there. I think once they see that they can make this money and then that they'll have a fair shake and an opportunity to grow, I think that it'll be a good thing."