The following is a staff writer post from Libby Balke. She’s an amazing writer, work-at-home mother of two, and has been married almost 8 years. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Libby or Crystal.
A few months ago, I told you about my husband’s search for a new job in our new town. At the time, I used Langston Hughes’ oft-quoted poem to encapsulate how my husband – and I – were feeling about the deferment of his professional dreams. Many of you shared encouraging words with us on that post, and I want to thank each and every one of you for those kind thoughts; they were a light, both for me and my husband, who read every last one.
That’s why I’m so thrilled to come back here today and share with you the exciting news that my husband has just received a job offer to become a police officer at a department about 20 minutes away from our new home. Although he was left foundering for just two months – a very manageable timetable, considering what many Americans have gone through over the past five years – it was a process wrought with frustration and tested his patience in ways he’d never imaged.
I thought I’d share a little of that process with you – if nothing else, it just goes to show how much goes into hiring the men and women who serve and protect our communities. Rest assured, these people are the best of the best – then again, I may be biased.
Civil Service Exams
Although not universally true across the country, many police departments start the hiring process for new candidates with a standard civil service exam. Sometimes, you can earn “extra credit” on these exams for military service, prior police work, or a college degree. Departments typically have a minimum score they want candidates to meet in order to move on to the next round; it’s usually around 70-80%.
My husband took three different civil service exams for four different law enforcement agencies, and passed each one. However, his score on the first test – 76% – only ranked him in the middle of the pack of prospective candidates; it wasn’t a promising start. He ranked in the top 10 of the second exam, and things were looking up. Then, he ranked first out of more than 200 candidates on the third exam… things were definitely looking up.
Once a candidate passes the civil service portion of the hiring process, he or she then moves on to the physical assessment. The standards for this test are usually based on the FitnessGram Assessment, developed by the Cooper Institute. If you’re a child of the 80s – like I am – then you probably remember the Presidential Physical Fitness tests from elementary school gym class; the Cooper Institute’s metrics work in much the same way.
After my husband ranked in the top ten for his second and third civil service exams, he was invited to take those departments’ physical exams. The first of those two exams – we’ll say it was for Department A, where he’d ranked 8th on the civil service test – didn’t go well for my husband; he had to bench press 98% of his body weight, and was only able to bench press 94% (for a guy his size, that was still over 200 pounds; he’s 6′ 6″ and a former college football player). He was immediately disqualified for the job.
At the second exam – we’ll say it was for Department B, where he was the top-ranking candidate after the civil service portion – there was no bench press requirement. He easily ran the requisite mile-and-a-half in under 12 minutes, and did enough push-ups and sit-ups in a minute to move on to the next round.
Next, Department B started a two-week long background check on its top 10 candidates, including my husband. During this time, they called every last employer my husband had ever worked for, including the construction job he did during summers in high school more than a decade ago. They also called his old college football coaches (some of whom are now NFL assistants), old neighbors, family friends, and just about anyone they could think of. One of the officers even showed up in our old neighborhood – in a state hundreds of miles away! – knocking door to door, asking about my husband. To say this process was in depth would be the understatement of the year. Ultimately, they produced a 50-page report on my husband, which found that he’d been a choir boy his whole life, so to speak. He moved on to the next round.
Then, my husband had not one but two interviews for the new job.
The first was with several senior supervisors from Department B; the second was with the city’s mayor, public safety commissioner, and a panel of citizens. They asked him questions about his philosophy about police work, what he’d do in a given situation, and personal questions about his family life, too. My husband really enjoyed this portion of the hiring process; after all, he’d already done the job in another state for seven years, and knows a lot about his field. He enjoyed talking with others who were interested in it!
After he made it through the interview process, he received a job offer – but it wasn’t an offer for full employment, merely a conditional offer. Once the conditional offer was made, it allowed Department B to ask my husband questions that state law prohibited them from asking without a conditional offer. These items included:
My husband met with a former FBI agent, who gave him a polygraph. He passed.
My husband spent four hours being poked and prodded at a local hospital for a complete medical workup. They did blood testing (including a drug test), hearing and physical tests, and a whole bunch of other tests! He passed.
During a three-hour exam, a psychologist talked with my husband and gave him various tests to determine if he was mentally tough enough to do the job. My husband’s favorite part was the Wonderlic Test, an assessment most famously used on collegiate football players entering the NFL draft; since a catastrophic knee injury had knocked my husband out of his senior year of football – and prevented him from playing in the pros – he thought this part was pretty cool. Needless to say, he passed this too.
Offer of Full Employment
After my husband had passed all the exams associated with the conditional offer, he was given an offer of full employment with Department B. He finally had his new job! He starts this month.
But his training isn’t over. Even though he’d attended – and passed – the police academy in the state where we used to live, he’ll have to attend it again in our new state; it’s a 12-week program. Then, even though he’s worked on patrol for years, he’ll have to spend another four months in patrol training under the supervision of a field training officer; ironically, my husband was a field training officer at his old agency! A lot of this training will be redundant for him, but it just goes to show you how complete it is; the men and women in blue (and sometimes in black, or even that weird shade of tan) are ready for their work!
A big “Thank You” once again to all of you for your support! We appreciate all the kind words and encouragement – and wish any of you out there searching for a new job loads of good luck!