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Officer and Selection

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Over the decades, the process to recruit and select police officers has significantly changed. In the 1960's the officers selected were typically white men without higher education. Over the years, the police force across the country has become more diverse employing all races, genders, political and religious views. Still departments must make the best selections to ensure the fundamental principles of policing are enforced; protect life and prevent crime, uphold and enforce law, promote safety, control traffic, encourage respect for the law and protect rights. To find a candidate that meets these criteria is a lengthy and in depth process including; both written and physical exams, background checks, psychological and polygraph tests. To recruit candidate's agencies may post ads, flyers, or participate in job fairs. In addition to these methods some organizations offer internships. To have the best results agencies must begin with a broad group then over time weed out who would fit best for the position. For all agencies the minimum requirements are: be 21 years old, possess a valid driver's license, no felony convictions, and must be able to pass written and medical exams, an interview, a physical and psychological screening. Along with these requirements many agencies require a high school education and some require college credits. A candidate must also have technical knowledge as the use of computers, and technology is now part of the day to day tasks an officer has. Many departments have implemented laptops in squad cars. This gives the officer access to information immediately without needing to call dispatch for the answer. With the luxury of computers in patrol cars, officers can now print tickets on the spot. Computer programs have been created to map geographical areas and pinpoint accurate data. Officers must

be able to read and understand the maps. While all officers are not required to have college education legal knowledge is taken into consideration for candidates, the ideal officer would understand a broad range of laws. Certain departments require their officers to live in the jurisdiction they work, not all agencies require this however it is though that officers would have more skill when dealing citizens in their community. After being recruited and meeting all the regulations of the department a selection process begins. This process includes the written exam, background checks, interviewing, psychological and polygraph tests, and a physical agility test. Each section of this process gives the department the information needed to determine whether the candidate is the best for the position. The written exam is typically the first part of the process testing reading, writing, and comprehension skills. Officers must be able to communicate efficiently in multiple ways. Part of the daily routine of an officer is to write accurate reports. Once the test is complete, only candidates with a particular score or higher will move on through the selection process. Background checks are important in determining if a person has been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor. Along with a legal check, agencies must evaluate moral and ethical issues. Officers who show prejudice would not be a reasonable selection. Typical jobs or careers have a one on one interview process. With police agencies it usually is comprised of three to five interviewers. The purpose of the

interview is to learn about the applicant. Some questions are very straightforward while others are open-ended to allow the person to explain their view or opinion about an individual situation or topic. The interview stage may exclude certain candidates while on the contrary others who demonstrate professionalism, social skills, appearance, and composure may move forward. Problematic behavior is a significant risk when selecting a candidate. To help prevent these actions agencies administer psychological and polygraph tests. The psychological test is used to measure intelligence, personality characteristics, and mental disorders. The most common psychological test is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory or the MMPI. This assessment helps determine whether a person should be diagnosed with a mental disorder and assesses psychopathology. Many other problems are also identified through the use of MMPI. More than half of the agencies in the U.S. administer polygraph tests or lie detector tests. These tests are only 85 to 90 percent accurate, but help in deciphering when a person lies. The final portion of the selection part is the physical agility test. Officers must meet a certain set of activities that correlate to the day to day job duties. Female and male officers typically use the same agility test and women are just as likely to pass as men. Departments must administer such a vigorous recruitment and selection process to ensure they have the best officers on their force. Without each step in the selection process, the safety of the public may be lessened. Even with all of the testing some

Officers still end up committing acts of police brutality, violence, and crime. The tests are meant to pick the best of the best, but there is no way to know how a person will react in certain situations. After the recruitment and selection process officers must go through a probation period of one to two years during which evaluations are conducted. The police academy is the first stop in the training of an officer to learn on the job techniques. After the academy officers are placed with a field training officer or FTO to assist in applying the skills learned at the academy in the field. FTO's play a significant role in how a rookie officer will socialize within the police culture. Eventually, many officers will want to move up in the department ranks. Part of the promotion process is an interview, written exam, and assessment of qualities related to the position. Officers moving from the street to a desk position are often required to complete office related tasks to ensure they would be a good fit for the department. Training is an ongoing part of the career of an officer. To keep up to date with what is going on with the community, laws and changes that affect them and the communities they serve. Training is meant to help develop and educate officers who will also help when the time comes for a promotion.

References
Law Enforcement in the 21st Century, Second Edition, by Heath B. Grant and Karen J. Terry. Published by Allyn & Bacon. Copyright © 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc.

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