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Police Recruiting and Hiring Practices

Nowadays, recruiting and hiring practices in police departments are rather complicated. The current work describes hiring of internal personnel and external candidates to fill vacant positions. The detailed description of all the phases of the selection process from obtaining the documents and up to the appointment of full-time workers helps to understand that all these actions are directed towards the assurance that the position of the police officer will be occupied by the right person who has needed skills and knowledge, physical and psychological characteristics, and high moral and ethical standards.

Literature Review

Two types of literature were used for the preparation of the current work. These include publications on the official websites of American police departments and an article introduced in the Law Enforcement Executive Forum. The first type of literature provides a clear understanding of real-life practices of recruiting and hiring of future police officers. The description of these practices was taken from sites of the following agencies: Philadelphia Police Department (n.d.), National City Police Department (n.d.). The article from the site Discover Policing (n.d.) provides a more well-defined description of the written examination of applicants. The brochure for the applicants prepared by Richmond Police Department (2010) provides the description of ride along test which helps to evaluate the candidates’ ability to perform routine work of a police officer. The information concerning the most common reasons of denial is taken from the article “Police Recruit Application and Selection Process.” However, all these sites do not provide the understanding of the existing ways of attracting candidates for vacant positions in police departments. The author of the article “Strategies for Police Recruitment: A Review of Trends, Contemporary Issues, and Existing Approaches” (2014) describes the most commonly used strategies of attracting the applicants which are used in the current time.

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The information for the preparation of the current research paper was searched for and gathered in the Internet. This method has been chosen because it is considered to be the simplest one. Only articles and publications on the official websites of police departments concerning police recruiting and hiring processes were chosen for the current work. The emphasis was made on the studying of real practices of the candidate assessment adopted and used in the American police departments. The keywords which were used during the search of information are the following: police recruitment, police hiring, and evaluation to police department. The major problem that arouse while gathering data is the sources duplicating the information. Consequently, it was difficult to find out something new. All the information was thoroughly analyzed and presented in the coherent manner.

Analysis and Discussion

Representatives of recruitment units of police departments may use both internal personnel and external candidates to fill the vacant positions of police officers. They should evaluate skills and knowledge of the existing employees and have a desire to achieve further professional and personal growth. They should also conduct compulsory examination described below. Jeremy M. Wilson (2014) in his work noted that such employees are considered to be “the best recruiters for a department” because promotion of internal staff “can enhance community outreach efforts by making recruitment an overall philosophy rather than a task performed (p.81). Such employees already have the established professional and personal networks, and possess a clear understanding concerning the specifics of work of a police department, its policies, ethical considerations and objectives.

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Police departments use a great variety of strategies to attract candidates for the vacant positions. According to the official research, more than 18 % of candidates were first motivated to contact their current police departments after seeing the advertisement in various sources of mass media in the Internet (Wilson, 2014). Moreover, about 80 % of applicants access the Internet at least once a day (Wilson, 2014). Additionally, it should be noted that the use of the Internet media sources helps to attract candidates when the department budget is cut down. Moreover, such way of attracting new candidates helps small departments to compete against large agencies in attracting future employees to work in different spheres. Social networking sites help to attract the attention of “students and recent graduates, military personnel, professionals, formed and current enforcement, police supervisors, and job searchers from other fields” (Wilson, 2014, p.83). Candidates are also attracted by simulation-based videos and emotional video-clips (Wilson, 2014). Some of the police departments open their doors and allow on-site visits. The accurate presentation of the agency can have a considerable influence on candidates’ interests in this agency and may be successful in attracting women and minorities, especially if similar individuals occupy important positions in this agency (Wilson, 2014).

Police recruiting and hiring processes are guided by both federal and state regulations. Each element of these processes has the aim of identifying important aspects of candidates’ characters and work-related behaviors, and determining whether they are suitable for the position of a police officer (Philadelphia Police Department, n.d.). The process of recruiting and hiring involves several steps: sending application forms and all necessary documents, passing examinations and tests, interviewing, examination of background data of the applicant, medical and psychological evaluation, polygraph examination, passing of the training program, and on-the job probation (Philadelphia Police Department, n.d.). The applicants should complete all the steps of the process before they can become police officers.

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It should be noted that the candidate should correspond to the entry-level police officer eligibility requirements prior to the start of the recruiting and hiring process. The person should have graduated from high school or possess G.E.D. certificate. Necessary abilities include observation, learning, understanding and interpretation of laws, police procedures and practices, ability to analyze problems and development of appropriate actions for responding to these problems in emergency and stressful situations, preparation of grammatically correct and accurate reports in English, cooperation with coworkers of different race, age, gender and religion, as well as understanding and performance of written and oral directions (National City Police Department, n.d.). Applicants should be U.S. citizens or permanent residents who applied for American citizenship (National City Police Department, n.d.).

The first step is sending documents to the recruitment unit of the police department. The short application form contains personal information of the applicant. Usually, the applicant should additionally submit signed and dated waiver and release form, copy of Birth Certificate, copy of High School Diploma (or G.E.D. Certificate), and copy of College Diploma (Philadelphia Police Department, n.d.). Some police departments (like National City Police Department) require valid local police driving license and evidence of auto insurance, Social Security Card, Selective Service Registration letter, marriage documents, college transcripts, and any police training records (National City Police Department, n.d.). Sometimes representatives of the recruitment department require credit reports and perform further review of each applicant’s credit history (“Police recruit application and selection process,” n.d.). The evaluation of credit history will be combined with other factors in order to determine whether the applicant is suitable for a position of a police officer (“Police recruit application and selection process,” n.d.).

After that, candidates will be required to complete various tests and examinations which pursue an aim of determining physical and psychological condition of applicants, their skills and knowledge. The examples of the tests are the Physical Fitness Test, a drug-screening test, and the Nelson-Denny Reading Test.

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Applicants will be required to pass a complete physical examination, which will contain checking of personal medical history, eye examination, color blindness test, EKG, and breathing tests. Personal height and weight will be recorded and evaluated (weight should be appropriate for the height).  It should be noted that candidates who are overweight will be instructed to lose weight to some particular point prior to being eligible for the appointment. Failure to meet weight requirements will lead to reexamination on a later date. Some agencies also use job simulation test to determine one’s personal ability to perform some specific activities (for example, climbing the wall). It is notable that each agency sets its own minimal requirements (Discover Policing, n.d.). Applicants should pass the physical examination phase before proceeding to the next step. The performance of these tests pursues the aim of gauging candidates’ ability to deal with physical and psychological stress similar to what the person may encounter while performing duties of a police officer.

The next step is an oral interview that is aimed at identifying applicants’ suitability for the work of a police officer or some other position in the police department. Members of Recruitment Department may ask questions to evaluate their communication skills and ability to respond to the unexpected questions (National City Police Department, n.d.). Special criteria are used for the evaluation of candidates during interviews: training and experience, interpersonal skills, work habits, problem solving and decision making abilities, interests, motivations and values (National City Police Department, n.d.). The oral exam might be supplemented by the written exam that is usually used for the assessment of general attitude and does not require the knowledge of specific laws. As a rule, it contains the following sections: reading and comprehension, analytic and problem-solving skills, memory and writing skills (Discover Policing, n.d.). Applicants can use special POSTs that offer study guides and private sector publications for the preparation for this exam. Sometimes, applicants are required to pass video exams (Discover Policing, n.d.). During these exams, they watch scenarios and provide verbal responses which are then rated. Such examination also helps to determine the ability to make judgments and interpersonal skills of the applicants. Some police departments can use the ride along tests as a part of the evaluation process (Richmond Police Department, 2010). Specially assigned police officer observes candidates’ behavior during riding along and determines whether the individuals are suitable for the performance of police officer job.

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After successfully passing the above tests, “candidates must complete an exhaustive background questionnaire called “PDQ” (police data questionnaire)” (Philadelphia Police Department, n.d.). This document should contain every aspect of their previous history. Police background investigators provide special forms to the applicants and explain how to fill in these forms. This step is rather comprehensive. Candidates can conduct necessary research and complete questionnaires at home, because these forms are rather complicated (Philadelphia Police Department, n.d.). The truthful completion of this form is the critical factor of the recruitment process due to the fact that “any falsehoods are grounds for immediate rejection” (Philadelphia Police Department, n.d.).

The next phase of the recruitment and hiring process of police officers involves the background investigation. Members of the Recruitment Background Investigations Unit contact people from the applicants’ employment history, family members, friends, teachers, coworkers, neighbors and associates. Investigators may also interact with individuals they identify as those who have once known the candidate (Philadelphia Police Department, n.d.). All these people are interviewed with an aim of studying the applicants’ characters and personal fitness for the work in police department. This process helps to exclude “candidates who have demonstrated character traits that are inconsistent against the highest values of the profession” (Philadelphia Police Department, n.d.). Members of the Recruitment Background Investigations Unit are looking for honest and trustworthy people with high moral and ethical standards.

After passing written and oral examinations, candidates will be required to take “computer administered, true-false personality inventory” (Philadelphia Police Department, n.d.). The truthfulness of the candidate and the inflammation presented in PDQ will be verified during polygraph examination. This test can be performed by interrogation experts and certified polygraphists from the outside agency. This test is scheduled by the member of recruiting department. No candidate will be appointed unless a person passes this examination.

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Besides, applicants will be evaluated by the licensed psychologist. This specialist will determine whether candidates are “psychologically stable and mentally fit to handle the job” (Discover Policing, n.d.). This evaluation can be performed in the form of a written exam or interview. It has several aims: to be sure that the candidate is suitable for the position from a psychological standpoint and to evaluate their personal character (Discover Policing, n.d.).

The satisfactory completion of all these stages leads to placement of applicants into eligibility list. Candidates are drawn from this list and transferred to the training class when new vacancies occur and trainings are scheduled. Individuals who successfully complete training programs are promoted to the police department. They are assigned to a patrol district. It should be noted that “the date of promotion marks the beginning of a one-year probationary evaluation period” (Philadelphia Police Department, n.d.). Officers will be under close scrutiny during this period. After the completion of one-year on-the-job probation, they will become full-time workers of the police department (Philadelphia Police Department, n.d.).

The most common reasons for denial of employment in the police department are the following: falsification of the background data, previous arrests, and use of drugs, unsuitable previous working history, driving records, immaturity, and lack of a clear understanding of job requirements (“Police recruit application and selection process,” n.d.).

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The current paper provides a thorough explanation of recruitment of employees to the police department. The first part of the paper is devoted to the description of procedures of hiring of internal staff, because such method is considered to be the most beneficial. Current staff is already aware of the goals, objectives and practices which exist in police departments. Moreover, these people have already established social relations with coworkers. However, the major part of the current research paper is devoted to the hiring of the external staff. Various methods of attracting employees which are used nowadays have been emphasized and described. These methods include videos, internet means of mass media, and on-site visits. If the person decides to apply for the position of police officer, he or she should pass several steps. It should be noted that various police departments have different requirements to the applicants. Some of these requirements are presented in the current work. The first step involves delivery of necessary documents and a filled application form. The second step includes tests and examinations performed to determine personal knowledge, skills and physical condition of the candidate.  Then the applicant should pass written and/or oral interviews and fill in special questionnaire form. All the information is thoroughly checked by the members of the recruitment department. Falsification of background data can lead to the denial of employment. Afterwards, the candidate passes polygraph and psychological examination. If the police department has a vacant position, the applicants complete trainings and undergo one year of the probation period. After the completion of this period, the person can be appointed as a full-time worker. All the elements of hiring and recruitment are directed towards identifying and evaluating candidates’ behaviors, skills, knowledge, and physical abilities in order to determine whether they are suitable for the position of a police officer.