A young lad phoned me the other day seeking advice on his law enforcement employment quest. He had not applied to my department, so there was no problem with our talking. He was bemused over not getting hired time after time. I had to ask him several questions and direct him to certain points. Let's look at a few.

First of all, be honest with yourself. Would you hire yourself? If you look into the mirror and have to make excuses for you to yourself—get real! I never found out what this young man's issues were, but let's look at common reasons why chiefs and sheriffs don't hire certain applicants.

Test scores that hover near room temperature are a start. If you have to take a civil service or any sort of entrance test, prepare yourself before you take the test. No, you will not be "miracled" through this, and doing average does not cut it. You are competing against others; every point counts. Study and prepare.

Bad oral interviews will derail the best of young candidates. Find a book to prep with or seek a seasoned officer and practice interviewing. Interviewing can be a nervous time; it can be overcome with practice. Watch what you say here.

When I was in Savannah, I chaired a candidates' interview board. We had a pat question: Why do you want to be a police officer? All we want to hear is that you want to help the community, are willing to work and you care…boiler plate stuff here. Oh no, this one sterling lad stated he was ready to give his life for the city. He worried us, a lot, and he did not get past us.

Double check your application. Errors and omissions on the application can mean an early exit from the process. If you put something on that application it had better be the gospel truth. If there is one falsehood or error, you are toast.

References are another issue altogether. A good background investigator will ask a reference to name two or three people who know you. These may not be the ones you want us talking to, so be sure of who you put down. Please tell your references that they may be getting a call. If by chance they do not want to be your reference this will be a warning light.

Youthful indiscretions will get you every time. Face it, if you have a criminal, some juvenile and/or traffic records, don't waste your time. You may talk to the recruiter and ask if they are going to eliminate you. Don't even think of lying or omitting pertinent information. Police investigators are like small town priests; they will find out your sins sooner or later.

Use of recreation chemicals is a curious point nowadays. In the past, one admission of youthful experimentation and you were eliminated. Today, there is some "easing up" on the level and time of usage. Check around on the restrictions if you have tried it once.

Credit history is a point of interest as well. No chief wants a young officer who owes or has been assigned bad credit. A good credit history is a mark of integrity. If you have a credit problem, fix it before applying for the job.

There are several more items such as lack of education for departments that require a college diploma. The answer here is going back to school. But the most important thing I can tell you is to fully read and fully understand the job announcement. Often it will state the need for pre-certified officers or residency requirements. Read, comply, and educate yourself first. The time you could be wasting is yours.

Author

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.

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William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.

View Bio
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