CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Police Department is hiring a consultant to assist with internal promotions as it considers how best to fill vacancies in its lieutenant and sergeant ranks.
The city’s purchasing department is finalizing a $44,800 contract with Ergometrics, a public safety testing company from Lynnwood, Wash., to compile a certified list of candidates from which the police department can fill the positions.
“They offer a combination of multiple choice and true and false questions,” said Tom Jonker, deputy police chief. “The other candidates only offered multiple choices as an option, and we’d like the true and false, too, so that you don’t sit there and get to see all the answers. You have to think on your feet. And if it’s not there, you still have some idea what the answer may be.”
The company’s role includes crafting questions to ask candidates and providing scoring criteria to rank them.
Jonker noted Ergometrics offers the option of live role play or recorded video scenarios to see how candidates react to certain situations. In addition to the standardized assessment centers, the consultant also offers a portfolio assessment to score the applicants’ potential for promotion based on previous work assignments and experience, he said.
The Civil Services Commission certifies the list of finalists and the police chief ultimately decides who from the list to promote.
Nancy Evans, commission chairwoman, voted during a meeting earlier this month to hire the consultant.
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“This sounds like a good process and sounds like a good firm,” Evans said. “Sounds like you’ve looked at a few. We don’t have any objections.”
The list of finalists is good for two years before the department would need to go through a new candidate evaluation.
The Cedar Rapids Police Department periodically has used a consulting firm to assist with hiring and most recently did so about four years ago, Jonker said.
An assessment panel made up of police officials from other jurisdictions also assists in reviewing candidates.
The Cedar Rapids Fire Department also recently used a consultant to assist with a few promotions as former assistant fire chief Greg Smith was promoted to chief in April, creating a ripple affect of vacancies at the assistant chief and battalion chief ranks.
Emergency Services Consulting International, a Chantilly, Va,. firm specializing in fire department hires, was signed for $48,700 to assist with those two promotions in May. Those promotions are still in process.
The company was called to create questions, exercises and simulations designed to measure administrative, situational, management, delegation, coordination and planning competency needed for the positions. It also was called on to administer testing and provide scoring and weighting.
Smith said the fire department has used consultants for this in the past, but most recently at least 25 years ago.
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“We wanted to make sure that we had a valid promotional process,” Smith said. “We want a valid reliable and fair and equitable process. Hiring a consultant makes sure it’s a valid process but takes us out of the mix.”
It helps eliminate internal biases, he added. He also said contracting a specialist to help with the promotion process is considered a best practice, although not a requirement of its recent accreditation through the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.
Iowa City also regularly uses consultants for internal promotions for both police and fire departments and has for years, said Karen Jennings, a human resources administrator for the city. The city most recently hired Cayler Consulting, of Carroll, for an amount not to exceed $12,100 to assist with captain, lieutenant and sergeant promotions in the police department.
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