Getting the best recruits to take your entry-level police exam
In my October article about recruiting and selecting candidates for the position of police officer I expressed the opinion that although we now allow candidates who have used marijuana (but not sold it) to enter the candidate pool, I knew of no department that allowed candidates to apply who have used harder narcotics.
Oh boy, was I wrong!
I received a slew of e-mails from readers advising me that their departments allow candidates to apply who admitted to having used meth, coke, or dope. Apparently, it depends on when the drug or narcotic was used — the line in the sand is the sale of drugs. To say that I found these e-mails “disturbing” is an understatement. I wonder whether human resources personnel have ever heard of the term vicarious liability.
I fully understand that allowing people to apply does not mean they will not be vetted during the written, medical, physical agility, polygraph, background, and oral examinations. I feel that the lack of a strict rule prohibiting those admitting to drug use from applying is just another nail in the coffin for those of us who have dedicated ourselves to a way of life in which high standards and ethical behavior are the cornerstones of our profession.
While the response regarding drug use policies in department hiring are disheartening, I’m still convinced that there are untapped reservoirs of quality young men and women across the fruited plain that have what it takes to be one of us. Should a 22-year-old candidate who admitted to smoking a marijuana cigarette at age 16 be eliminated from the process? We all can have an individual option on that, but when it comes time to selecting men and women to join our ranks, that’s what the selection process is all about — to “weigh the pros and cons” of each candidate against a set standards. We do that in the medical exam, physical agility test, psychological test, background investigation, oral test, and chief’s interview.
As a retired police captain and now the Director of the Criminal Justice Program at a college here in Connecticut, I’m in daily contact with just the type of people we are looking for. I’m often surprised that it’s rare a police department contacts me or visits the campus during their recruiting drives. The most I get is a form letter in bulk mail with a test announcement and maybe a poor-quality brochure.
So, if we really want to attract the brightest and best qualified to our profession how should we do it? Here are some ideas:
Taking control of the examination process
I routinely create and administer police exams. All begin with a job task analysis and creation of a written examination with a writing exemplar. In more progressive departments, I’m able to throw some assessment center testing methodologies into the process. However, for some reason civil service or human resource personnel believe they are either the only ones who can administer a police entry level test, or that the person who created the test must do it. The reason cited is test integrity and security. When I ask them to show me a federal or court decision relative to test administration they cannot. Typically they just fall back on “that’s the way we do it” type of reply.
I would give the test and the answer analysis to the commander of the recruitment team. The test can be administered by any member of the recruitment team, anywhere, at any time. After receiving an application and a fee to take the test (this can range anywhere between $50.00 and $200.00), I see no reason it can’t be given at the department or on site. The Chief needs to make this happen in meetings with the city or town human resources director.
Attracting Minority Candidates
What court case or personnel rule prohibits adding points to an applicant’s final score if our goal is to attract minority candidates? Why can’t we add veteran preference points if we believe that a veteran’s service record in the armed forces indicates knowledge, skill, ability, or personal characteristic we consider to be predictive of success as a police officer? If residency in a town or city is important why can’t we offer an incentive? If we want people who speak Spanish and they can take a language test indicating that they are truly bilingual, why can’t we add two, three, or five points to their final score?
Let’s be frank. Unless a department has a large pool of qualified minority candidates at the officer level, what are the proportionate chances we will see African/American, Hispanic, or female Sergeants, Lieutenant, Captains, Deputy Chief’s and Chief’s of Police?
Is it important? I think so. Do you?
Be safe out there!
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