Cincinnati, OH – The Ohio Civil Rights Commissioner is asking questions about why police and fire applicants are asked to reveal their “most unusual sex act” on applications to both departments.
The questions being scrutinized are part of the normal pre-employment process for the Cincinnati police and fire departments, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The paper reports that those records can be accessed by the public.
"This certainly raises eyebrows," said Mary Turocy, the director of public affairs for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.
"Have you participated in a sexual act in a public place? Location(s) and number of times. … Explain each circumstance,” is just one question on the application potential first responders face on the Cincinnati application.
"Not counting self-masturbation or legal sexual activity with a willing partner, what was your most unusual sex act?" is another question applicants must answer.
This revelation had legal experts saying that some of the questions were "irrelevant to the functioning of the business and could possibly be deemed inappropriate," the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
But the city defended the application process and its questions.
“The specific questions mentioned are a small component of a comprehensive questionnaire used during a polygraph exam for prospective recruits,” the city said in a statement. “The polygraph is used to help gauge a respondent’s reactions and responses to difficult questions."
Turocy said that to date, no discrimination lawsuits have been filed against Cincinnati or any of the other departments in the region that ask sexually-related questions on their applications.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that she said questions about sexual activity could be be problematic in different contexts, but for employers, one factor is key: "Is it necessary for the employer to know that about the employee?"
Cincinnati Police Union President Sergeant Dan Hils defended the question about sex in a public place and said it was an "indication of law-breaking exposure,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
But Sgt. Hils also said the question about “unusual sex” could “possibly be out of bounds.”
"What we should be asking about are things that are criminal in nature," the sergeant told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Stuff geared more to people's private, behind-closed-doors lives, I do not see as having a bearing on the work we do."
Cincinnati isn’t the only city that asks pointed, personal sexual questions of their applicants.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that all of the first responder pre-employment questionnaires they obtained for this story had questions about illegal sexual activity, specifically sex with minors, sexual assault, or possession of child pornography.
Additionally, West Chester police recruits are asked “ever sexually aroused by fire?” during their polygraph.
Those same recruits are asked if they’ve ever had sex with a dead person or dead animal, and if they’ve ever been married to more than one person at the same time.
West Chest Spokeswoman Barb Wilson told the Cincinnati Enquirer that their police department was trying to "determine the character, moral standards and ethical decision making" of the men and women applying to its force.
"The questions asked as part of the polygraph examination should be considered as a collective of questions and not individually," Wilson wrote in an email. "They are designed to gauge reactions and determine truthfulness in the broad range of topics covered."
In Delhi Township, the same-old police department application is running into problems with millennial applicants who have more modern values.
Police recruits are asked if they have "ever posted or transmitted naked/sexual images of yourself over the internet or cell phone app."
Delhi Township Administrator Jack Cameron told the Cincinnati Enquirer it’s almost impossible to find a millennial recruit who hasn't shared a picture of a "body part.”
The city of Norwood asks all police and fire applicants if they’ve ever watched other people having sex. And Colerain Township’s application asks if “you ever had sex, or a sexual relationship with a married co-worker?"
"The questions we ask that deal with sexual activity are generally limited to illegal activities. We do, however, ask more pointed questions that tend to reveal poor-decision making and lack of character in an applicant," Colerain Police Chief Mark Denney told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
"Our responsibility to the community is to learn everything about someone before handing them our badge and asking the community to trust them,” Chief Denney said.