A Former Police Officer Speaks On Dayton PD’s Lowered Standards
As a follow-up to the recent news that the Dayton, Ohio, Police Department recently lowered the passing grade on entrance exams to the police academy, a former police officer, detective, and SWAT team member explains more about the selection process for the men and women who make up the thin blue line:
As a police officer, I often participated in the selection process for police recruits.
Anyone would be amazed at the “diversity” of those who walk through the door to take such tests, and I’m not referring to race. Many apparently have no idea that when applying for a job requiring great maturity and responsibility, it would be wise to shave and to wear clothing such that their lunch for the last few days can’t be identified at a glance. Some are unacquainted with bathing and other basic aspects of disease control and personal hygiene. Some wear sufficient piercings to set off airport metal detectors from the parking lot.
Many who take such tests are drawn by the romance and authority of the job, but are simply unqualified. In any such test, at least half won’t come close to passing, and some will pass but score so poorly as to be untouchables. As with any human endeavor, a few are exceptional, more are good, most are average, and the rest are simply not up to the task — a task measured in Dayton’s case by an unusually generous passing score determined even before DOJ intervention.
Once an eligibility list is established, applicants are commonly put through a physical fitness test to weed out obvious medical ineligibility and lack of fitness that would render them dangerous to themselves or others. I’ve actually witnessed applicants black out or have cardiac incidents due to previously undiagnosed conditions. In some cases, the rejection saved their lives.
Having passed the first two steps, intensive background checks are done, and the applicants commonly take psychological fitness examinations such as the Minnesota Multi-Phasic Inventory (MMPI). In some agencies there are additional tests of various kinds, including questioning by panels of serving officers of various ranks (and in smaller agencies, personal interviews with the sheriff or chief of police). However, one common test in most agencies is a polygraph, where the essential truthfulness of a candidate is assessed. This test also gives an agency an opportunity to discover disqualifying personal facts that an applicant might not otherwise divulge. Candidates are eliminated when background checks reveal sufficiently damaging skeletons in their closets, and psychological issues that might be otherwise overlooked are commonly discovered in that round of testing.
The process is time-consuming, expensive, and manpower-intensive, and that is just before an applicant is offered a job.
What most people don’t realize is that from the first day that a recruit reports for work, an average of a year will pass before they are ready to patrol the streets alone. For a year, each new recruit will draw pay and benefits but will provide no direct police services to their community. Not only that, other officers will be taken from directly serving the public to train and prepare those new officers. This year-long process is absolutely necessary and very expensive.
Hiring an applicant likely to fail is potentially dangerous and an egregious waste of taxpayer dollars.
During their first year, officers are commonly put through a state-mandated training academy, which they must pass to receive state certification as police officers. In addition, they must pass training courses within their own agencies, the most important of which is a field training course wherein they ride with a variety of seasoned officers specially trained to educate and evaluate new recruits.
Some are too dangerous or inept with firearms. Some are temperamentally unsuitable. Some simply can’t write competent reports. Some can’t multi-task, and can’t drive, be aware of their surroundings, and simultaneously speak on the radio. Only after successfully passing all of these experiences is an officer allowed to work on their own. Only then are citizens getting their money’s worth.
What’s more, to put one officer on the street 24/7/365, approximately four officers must be hired. That’s three officers for three eight-hour shifts, and at least one to cover for vacation, illness, court, mandatory training, and other issues that will routinely remove any officer from their duties. With all of this in mind, and considering the very real dangers of an undermanned police force, unnecessarily delaying the process for months for any reason is reckless and unconscionable.
The big question I have now is, how many of those people that “passed” after the passing score was lowered are actually going to make it through that year of training and such and actually get out on patrol on their own? I suspect not many, unless they also lower the passing scores of those tests and tell the supervising officers to let the preferred minorities get away with mistakes that would doom the career of any member of a non-preferred group.