Friday, November 6, 2009

Taking the Plunge...

So, you want to be a police officer.

What in Hell have you gotten yourself into?

Well, let's see.

Once you apply, you'll have to take some combination of a written test, a physical agility test, and an interview.

The written test is pretty basic. If you can read and write, you'll pass most of them. Some agencies use a different test with math and map reading skills, so make sure you know what you're getting into.

The physical agility test can vary widely from one agency to another. Most will require a bit of running, the ability to scale a six foot high wall or fence, and the ability to drag a dummy over a moderate distance. Some agencies will have agency specific portions, such as running up and down stairs if the city happens to have multi-story buildings, maybe you'll have to climb through a window, or there might be a balance beam.

The best preparation for a physical agility test is to already be in decent shape. Find a wall you can practice climbing over, run regularly and don't just sit around on your ass all day long.

To many applicants the interview (sometimes called an oral interview or oral board) is the most difficult part. If you go in unprepared, it will be. My biggest piece of advice for applicants about to go for their oral interview is, PREPARE. Learn as much as you can about the agency and the community. Go on a ride-along and ASK QUESTIONS. You need to be prepared to answer some of the common questions, such as:

- Tell us about yourself.

We don't want to hear how old you are. We already know that because your application is right here in front of us. This is where we want you to tell us what you have done with your life thus far, and where you want your future to go.

- Why do you want to be a police officer?

Interviewers do not want a canned answer such as "I want to help people" or "I want to serve my community". They want to know why you REALLY want to do this job. Give it some thought before the day of your interview. "Because I want to carry a gun" and "Because I like to drive fast" are probably not great answers either, just so you know.

- What do you have to offer the Smithville Sheriff's Office?

This would be where you showcase your skills and abilities. If you have prior experience, some special expertise or some prior training, this is where you tell us. Good at defusing sticky situations? Tell me why. Strong report writer? Give me examples. Just be ready to back up anything you mention.

Sell yourself.

- Why did you pick Smithville?

Well, why?

- Is there anything you'd like to add that we didn't already cover?

This would not be a good time to say "Nope, that's it", "I can't think of anything" or "ummmmm". Think of something to say. Even if you just say you appreciate being considered for employment, you're excited about the possibility of working for Smithville, or thank you for your time, SAY SOMETHING.

When the interview is done, you won't know whether you've passed or not. You'll be incredibly nervous before and after your first several interviews, but it gets better with time. Believe me, I went through quite a few.

A few weeks after your interview, you'll get a letter with your scores, and if you passed, a note saying you're on the eligibility list.

If you're lucky, a conditional offer of employment will follow.

We'll talk about that next time...


Triple Beeper said...

A lot of people who want to be officers but don't know where to start hire on at dispatch for a little while. You can get to know the guys/gals, learn a whole lot about how the department works, and make contacts. Plus it helps some of the higherups figure out you aren't an idiot (unless you are, in which case...) It's a good option here, where the minimum age to dispatch is 18 but the minimum age to be an officer is 21. There are so many dispatchers that do this that my center has a group of people who run and practice together for the physicals, too. Just FYI. Please don't tell my employer I recommended using them as a bridge. :-D

Damsel Underdressed said...

"Once you apply, you'll have to take some combination of a written test, a physical agility test, and an interview."

It's almost the same for hairdressers. Written, practical...but they really should test your ability to deal with (sometimes) complete morons. The hair illiterate would make you crazy, I'm sure.

Roy in Calif said...

Around here, corrections officer (non-sworn jail officer) is a more certain starting point. The skill sets needed to be a patrol officer are closer to CO (face-to-face with unpleasant folk) than dispatching. It also helps with visual recognition of "regulars."

Triple Beeper said...

@Roy in Calif, makes sense to me. I think the big thing here is the age requirement difference. You also have to be 21 to be a CO. There is a req'd certification for both PD and COs, and you have to be older to get it for some reason. The only thing dispatching does is build rapport and name recognition, which is only a small part of what is needed to get hired on.

Black Ice said...

I figured you'd be the one to ask about this.

'Common knowledge' has it that if you've ever taken psychedelic drugs, even once, you will never be hired as a police officer.

True, or just another rumor?

Officer "Smith" said...

That depends on the agency. Some will say if you have EVER taken psychedelic drugs, others may put a time range on it, such as within the past ten years.

I suppose the thought process behind this is that people have had flashbacks YEARS after having used LSD or shrooms.

The simple answer would be, check with each agency when you apply, and be honest about it.