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Article updated: 2/14/2014 6:23 PM

Schaumburg may require new firefighters to hold 4-year degrees

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Schaumburg's public safety committee has recommended lowering the maximum starting age from 40 to 35 for newly hired police officers and firefighters, as well as requiring new firefighters to hold bachelor's degrees as village police officers already do.

The recommended change to the age requirements is being made to comply with current state statute. But the statute is very detailed and contains many exceptions -- including for having served in the military, Assistant Village Attorney Rita Elsner said.

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The statute also makes 21 the minimum age for new hires. Schaumburg Police Chief James Lamkin said this implies an expectation of a certain level of maturity among police officers.

And with Schaumburg's long-running requirement for its police officers to hold any type of bachelor's degree, there's an overall breadth of knowledge and experience the village expects from its officers, Lamkin said.

"I think there needs to be a balance between education and common sense in police work," he added.

Though Schaumburg has had this educational requirement for police officers for many years, it's becoming a more common -- though far from universal -- requirement among other Illinois departments, Lamkin said.

Schaumburg will probably be more rare in the near future for requiring any kind of bachelor's degree for its new firefighters, Assistant Village Manager Paula Hewson said.

Until now, the village has required either an associate degree or a bachelor's degree.

But new applicants have already been receiving preference points for having bachelor's degrees, putting them higher up on the hiring list, Hewson said.

Because of this, among the pool of candidates seeking jobs at the Schaumburg Fire Department, the new requirement probably won't make much difference in whom is actually hired, Hewson added.

Though the state statute for hiring requirements for police officers and firefighters was revised in 2011, the village is only now testing candidates for the first update of its hiring list since then, Elsner said.

The statute applies when a new hiring list is being created, and most lists are valid for two or three years after testing, she said.

Approximately 390 candidates tested this month for Schaumburg's police officer hiring list, Lamkin said.

The village board will vote on the recommended changes on Tuesday, Feb. 25.

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