Not in Greeley. Police Chief Jerry Garner explained the long and tedious process consisting of several tests, screenings, and interviews one must successfully complete and rank at the very top to be considered by his department. We asked several questions:
What would cause someone to be disqualified?
Lying or falsifying any information on the police officer application packet, a felony arrest, a past including domestic violence, and not giving permission for the department to check your social media sites would automatically disqualify someone in the consideration process. Garner said that many times people do not disclose vital information that would automatically exclude them such as domestic violence or excessive trouble with the law. When it is found that someone was not honest, that candidate is taken out of the pool for consideration.
Having a traffic ticket will not disqualify someone. However, if two potential officers have the same scores and one has a history of five tickets, that candidate is considered to be “more of a risk,” said Garner.
What kind of paperwork is involved? The paperwork used for the application process for a police officer includes a thorough investigation of a candidate’s past activities, Facebook page, traffic tickets, credit history, and personal history. This excludes many who do not want to take the time to fill out the packet. The ones who do are then passed on for a paper review. If the packet looks good, it is passed on to a background investigator.
What if you’ve used drugs in the past?
“Experimental drug use is so common, if someone used marijuana in high school and maybe experiments with other drugs such as LSD or Mushrooms, that is not a disqualifier. What we’re looking for is a pattern of drug use.What was the drug use, how recent and how consistent,” answered Garner.
There is a basic written test that follows. Out of forty people, all but three or four will pass. Next, an officer candidate goes on to the physical agility test. The agility test is filled with scenarios designed to mock what an officer is required to do when patrolling the streets.
Next, there is another written test. This time the applicant may view a video and be asked to describe in a written report what he or she saw, other candidates may be asked to write an essay. This is vital as every officer must be able to write to succeed.
An interview panel consisting of fellow officers and human resource personnel will then ask the applicant several questions. “We don’t want to hire someone and spend a bunch of money on them only to have that person quit six months later… We don’t want to waste taxpayers’ money,” said Garner.
The panel makes sure that an officer is able to perform basic customer service goals, is able to handle difficult people, and is able to make quick, on-the spot decisions. A police officer must be someone who has a passion to help others, a sharp eye for crime, and a firm attitude about enforcing rules and laws that are put in place. Garner speaks to each police academy applicant and explains that the main focus is to do the job to the best of his or her ability In short, make the department better overall.
How do you narrow it down?
Those applicants who score in the top ten percent on all of the tests above undergo another extensive background check. Former employers, neighbors, and criminal records are checked. This is where some applicants are eliminated due to “drug use, arrests, domestic violence, or other records. Even if someone passes all of the tests and looks good so far but there is a doubt in the oral board’s mind, the tie always goes to the city. Garner said that they would rather not take a risk on someone.
Is it true there is a polygraph test?
Yes, the polygraph and psychological tests are the last pieces of the puzzle. With the polygraph, applicants are told the questions prior, providing the opportunity to tell the truth. Many are eliminated due to this process.
Can police officers have mental disorders?
If someone is on prescription medications for a mental disorder, “It’s something if you’ve got a psychological or physical condition that is maintained through medications that does not exclude or disqualify them.” Someone who has a temper, has a power trip, displays irresponsibility, or may be a danger to self or the public would not be a model candidate. The psychology test takes four hours and includes a written test and talking with the psychologist.
A physical examination and drug test is next. Someone with a disability is not disqualified. Garner said if someone is colorblind; this would keep someone from doing the essential functions of police work. Color descriptions are vital. On the other hand, if someone has a hearing problem but has a hearing aide, they would still be a great candidate.
After the long road of tests and interviews, the applicant gets to sit down with Garner for a final interview.
Why do police officers break the law?
Some may slip through the cracks as people “change over their lifetime.” Someone may have no issues and years down the road may experience a life changing event that alters behavior. “There may be no red flags in an applicant’s background at all, people will do unexpected things…They gave no indications, what we’re looking for in our investigations is that someone does not have an integrity problem…You try and look for those red flags, the person who has the courage and intelligence and won’t do anything stupid while he’s doing the job….Every agency may miss someone.” Garner explained.
Becoming a police officer should not be a job; it is a career path where someone must be a healthy well-rounded individual as well as someone who can perform analytic thinking in an expedited fashion while providing excellent customer service and protection to Greeley citizens.