This is the 2nd installment in chronicling my journey into law enforcement. If you would like to read from beginning, it is best to start with The Foundation.
The hiring process to be a police officer consists of many steps, varying in levels of difficulty depending on who you are. For some applicants, simply filling out the 20 page application can seem challenging. You have the easy part where you write in your contact information etc. Then you have to fill out your work history, which depending on the department, may require you to list all the jobs you have held in the past 10 years or even every job you have ever held since you entered the work force. That includes the ones where you hated your boss or vice-versa. Maybe you got fed up one day and just walked off the job without giving them any notice that you were quitting. You can bet they will be talking to every employer that you list. Suddenly you start to think, "Geez, maybe I shouldn't have told my boss to shove it before I walked out on my last day!" Some of the more lengthier applications will even ask you to list not only your supervisor's contact information, but also the contact information of another coworker from each job you have held. I am fortunate to be going through this at such a young age because I don't have quite as many employers to list. My advice to anyone who knows they want to pursue a career in law enforcement is to keep all of this information written down somewhere with everything in the same place so that every time you fill out an application you don't have to dig out the phone book to look up addresses, phone numbers, etc.
Then you have to list every place of residency you have held in the last ten years, or ever...I feel for those of you who have moved around a lot! List your references, and all the schools you have ever attended...and oh yeah, don't forget to leave yourself enough time to order a transcript from every school you have attended (some are free, others are not), make a copy of those diplomas too because they are required most of the time. Some places require you to submit a copy of your license, ss card, birth certificate, or a passport if you have one. If you are applying to a big city you can just head down to the post office and mail it or just type it in on your computer and click send...if it's a smaller city or a suburb you are going to have to stop at the bank and get your application notarized. Also, don't forget your check book because sometimes you also have to send in an application fee with your packet. Usually between $15-20, but I have seen up to $60 before. Mail it in and you are done! Unless you are like me...then do that 20 more times, once for every department you apply to. You can bet that just the hassle that this requires weeds out at least a couple people.
For some people the written test is the most challenging. Maybe they barely passed high school or haven't had to take a test in 20 years. I usually score fairly well on them depending on the format of the test. If there is a personality section involved I have learned I am pretty much screwed.
1. I prefer to watch cinderella over Sleeping Beauty. - strongly disagree, disagree, not sure, agree, strongly agree
2. I prefer Abraham Lincoln over George Washington. - strong disagree, disagree, not sure, agree, strongly agree
Yeah, go ahead and laugh but that screws me over every time!
For other people the physical fitness is the most challenging. In most cases you only have to do some pushups, situps and then 1.5 mile run. It is usually the run that weeds people out. The time that you have to do it in varies by department. On most occasions I have been required to run it in less than 11:58, but in others you can have as long as 15:30...or if you apply to a department in the South, even as long at 17:30. OK! At that point you might as well not even test physical fitness because it cannot be that important of a quality to your department if you have 17 minutes to run 1.5 miles! If you haven't ran lately, that is an incredibly long time! On a track you can pretty much speed walk the straight aways...walk the turns...stop for lemonade and take a nap and still finish with time to spare. The physical fitness is usually my bread and butter so I like them to be as hard as possible to weed out others who aren't dedicated enough to stay in shape on a regular basis.
Then comes the background investigation...they are going to talk to your employers, your coworkers, the references you listed and then they are going to ask each of those people to name a couple other people that know you. Was he a good neighbor? Do you know about how many times he was late to work when he worked for you? Have you ever had any disagreements with him? Hell, they might even talk to your kindergarden teacher...so hopefully she doesn't tell them that you used to eat your boogers and you shit your britches a couple times.
After they get all kinds of dirt on you, then they bring you in for the polygraph examination. Let me just share with you that you will never go through anything like this at any other time in your life. You are hooked up to all kinds of crap that monitors everything you can imagine. Then they ask you questions for about an hour or so about anything and everything. Financial history, drug and alcohol use, and you guessed it - your sex life too! I was once asked what kind of porn I like to watch! I am sitting there wondering what in the world is he looking for? I'm respond.."I don't know, naked chicks sir?" I wanted to joke back by asking what kind of porn he watched but I refrained. You can bet that this weeds out a decent number of people too. Here's a word of advice - don't lie! In most cases they don't care what kinds of things you have done. They just want to see if you will lie about it.
If you make it this far you are doing pretty good. The process starts to wind down with a stress test, medical eval, and then they usually bring in a shrink to administer a psychological test to find out if you are crazy. This part humors me. "umm...sir, I am signing up to be responsible for wearing a gun on my person every day for the next 30 years, patrolling the ghetto, pulling over cars and walking up and bothering them in the dark in the middle of the night, all while earning a police officers salary...Of course I am crazy!" This reminds me of a short commentary by Paul Harvey, be sure to check it out!
My problem is that the part this entire process that is the challenging for me is not the written, physical, background, or polygraph exams. It is the waiting game. It will test your patience like no other so I hope you are in no hurry to get a job. Best case scenario, it will take you anywhere from 6 months up to 2 years. I am waiting to schedule for an interview for one major Midwestern city that I applied for on Easter weekend of last year. The next academy class doesn't start until summer, so even if I was fortunate enough to make it in that class, it will have been a year long process. In another major city I had my written test in August 2010. They have not even sent out their results yet.
Here is my dilemma and I welcome any thoughts or feedback. In the meantime, I have been working as a security officer at a hospital in a major city (it's boring as hell, don't ever do it). I got myself registered to start the police academy at a local community college here in March. This is something I have been trying to avoid because for starters, it is expensive ($5,100 is what I am paying). Major cities usually have their own academy that they want you to go through, so it doesn't matter if you already went through an academy or even if you have been a police officer for the last ten years...you are going to go through it again at their academy. Also in many cases, medium sized to smaller departments will pay to put you through the academy and even pay you for your time, however since the city budgets are strained, it is becoming more difficult for them to be able to do this. (if you fail the academy or decide it's not for you, they are out that money) I have decided to bite the bullet and put myself through to make myself more marketable to the medium sized departments who may be balancing budgets.
I am in the final 8 for one department and should know more on the outcome of this in the coming weeks. This is a smaller department (around 20 officers) so they will be looking for me to go through an academy at a local community college like I have described. They could say, "You're hired and we will pay for your academy...you put yourself through the academy and let us know when you are done...or maybe even we want you but you are going to have to pay for your academy and then we will bring you on initially as a part time officer." I am also in the final 12 at another department that is a little bigger (about 60 officers). They send all of their recruits through an academy ran by the state which also starts in March and everything is paid for by them and they pay you for your time as well. I have an interview with them next week so wish me luck. As you can see, I could be headed down several different paths and only time will tell what in the world is going to happen. This uncertainty has proven to be challenging for me because I am a planner. As ironic as it seems, I have no idea what I am doing in 4 hours, but as for the larger events in my life I have always had a plan. Not having a plan for something that is so important has been stressful, or rather, I have plans set in place and even backup plans, but not knowing which plan I will follow is what has been stressful. I'll keep you updated with what happens with all of this!