It’s Cop Talk Live

October 4, 2006 | Karin's Blog | 15 comments

Dear Officer Friendly,

Can you tell us about the hiring process? How long was the academy? Did you ever think you wouldn’t make it? How many didn’t make it?
Thank you for your answers every week. I really enjoy them.

The hiring process is an arduous one, to say the least. After your basic application has been received it must be approved for the hiring process. Basically, they want to make sure you have no warrants or pending court cases. Having done this, the applicant receives a more in depth and very detailed set of applications and wavier’s.

I dropped 25 pounds in preparation for the testing and was running 6-7 miles every other day. I went to the library and checked out the Arco Tester for law enforcement testing. This is a book that contains numerous police department tests from around the country. It really prepared me to think like a cop. I also had a friend, who was a cop, put me through a mock oral board in preparation.

The hiring process is designed to eliminate applicants through each phase of testing, so as to end with a small group of the most applicable applicant’s. Phase one is the written test. This test covers a wide range of areas including general knowledge, basic math skills and English composition skills. It also tests, to a degree, the common sense of the individual in law enforcement situations and your memory skills. One must think like a cop to answer like a cop.

Only those having passed the written test, usually with a 70% or better, are allowed to the next phase, the physical agility test. This is where the physical abilities of the remaining applicants are put to test. You must be able to climb over a six foot high wall, scale a six foot high screen fence, drag a 150 pound dummy and be timed in a long distance run, 500 yards if I remember correctly. There will also be other physical tests like a timed obstacle course.

Two successful tests and on to the oral board. Usually three or more people from the police department, human resources department, and other city or county offices may make up an oral board. This is where the applicant sits across from the panel and answers their questions from each of the board members. Questions like: Why do you want to be a police officer? Why do you want to be a police officer in our city? How do you view the job of a police officer? Do you believe you could kill someone in self defense? Then there are the situational questions. These really test the common sense of the applicant and his/her ability to make good decisions under pressure.

Only those applicants who have passed all three phases are allowed to proceed, and only by your ranking, starting with the top 20 or so, depending upon the size of the department and its need for people. You are usually mailed your percentage of proficiency and ranking amongst the remaining candidates.

A polygraph or lie detector test, a physical examination and a complete background investigation lay ahead. They will even come to your neighborhood and talk with your neighbors and your spouse. When I applied, the city was hiring only two cops. Over 500 began the testing process. After the first three phases were complete, I received a proficiency rating of 89.9% and was ranked number five. I had only hoped to get into the top 10%. When I received the letter, I jumped up and down like a little kid screaming at the top of my lungs. My wife looked at me and said, “Oh shit, he made it.” Numbers one through four? For whatever the reason, they never got hired.

Thank you, Officer Friendly!
Remember, if you have a question please email me at and Officer Friendly will be happy to answer.


  1. Amanda

    I was trying to think of a question, but it was so informative that you filled in all the blanks. Thanks.

  2. Officer Friendly

    I guess I need to be less thorough so we can generate some activity here! Thanks for checking it out, Amanda.

  3. Karin

    So how long is the academy?

  4. Officer Friendly

    In California, academy is now 26 weeks long. On the average, up to 25% of those who start the academy will not complete it. For some, they realize law enforcement is not for them. For others, poor test scores and failure during the practical’s will bounce them out. After the academy, many will not pass their probation periods. “Many hear the call but few are called to answer.”

  5. Poppy

    “Questions like: Why do you want to be a police officer? Why do you want to be a police officer in our city? How do you view the job of a police officer? Do you believe you could kill someone in self defense?”

    So what are the right answers? What are wrong ones that people would actually give?

  6. Officer Friendly

    Poppy, while I won’t give the right answer’s I can give you some of the wrong: Why do you want to be a police officer? “I think cops are cool. Chicks dig’em.” Why our city? “Your city has a lot of crime. A lot of dope, hookers, robberies.” (Actual answers folks) I think you get the idea. Answers must be well thought out and appropriate. Obviously, if you can’t use deadly force you can’t be a cop.

    One situational question from an actual oral board: What would you do if you were called to the mall at the scene of a sleeping baby, in a brand new Mercedes Benz, on a very hot summer day, with all four windows cracked open?

    Okay gal’s, let’s hear some answer’s.

  7. Poppy

    lol. Reminds me of a grad school application I saw once. “Why do you want to study geography? Because I like reading National Geographic.” Wrong answer for a grad student.

    As for the situation:

    Call an ambulance, try the doors, if locked, break the window, and grab the baby. If it’s a hot day, she’s guarenteed to already be in distress, even if the mom’s only been gone for a minute. If the Governor just made it legal for a cop to do that for a dog, it must already be leagl for a baby.

  8. Tracey

    Oh good question Officer Friendly.

    I agree with Poppy except
    1. Ask by-standers who if they own the car.
    2. Break the windows if the doors were locked.
    3. Have someone else call for ambulance while I took the baby to a cool place and stripted off it’s cloths and tried to re-hydrate the baby if nessacary.
    4. Report the person to Child services for endangering their child.

    (p.s. I would also feel like punching the person that left a baby in the car.)

    Now you are probably going to say that’s not the right thing to do because it damages private property – but damn – it takes less than 20 minutes for a baby to die on a hot car.

  9. Officer Friendly

    Actual answer by an applicant: First, I would see if the doors were locked. Then I would go into the mall and have them use the public address system to ask the owner to come to their car immediately.

    Obviously, there is a child in possible danger so the officer should break the window furthest from the baby and retrieve it. Since you are a cop, you would use your radio to summon fire and ambulance should they be needed.

    Interesting, Poppy, how you assumed the baby was female. Tracey, we’ll get the vehicle owner’s info by running the plate, we’ll file a report and forward it to the D.A. for review of charges. If the owner is located on scene, they would probably but not definitely be arrested. Additionally, the child might or might not be place with Child Protective Services. All of this comes after the answer of the initital question. Unfortunately, some people get way-layed by the fact that it’s a new, expensive car, and make the wrong decision.

    Good job, ladies.

  10. Poppy

    >>Interesting, Poppy, how you assumed the baby was female.
    No reason. Just had to pick a pronoun and didn’t want to use “it.”

  11. Karin

    Life before property.

  12. Tracey

    Ah you see – I’m a mom – and the welfare of a baby would ALWAYS take priority for me – even if it wasn’t my own. I’d be less interested in finding the owner oth the expensive car – and more concerned with getting the baby out. I wouldn’t even get an announcement over the PA – particularly if the baby is sleeping – it could be passed out from heat exhustion.
    I also live in Australia – where it is Hot Hot Hot. So I know

  13. Amanda

    Hubby drives by a car at a reservoir. Car is on the shoulder of the road, owner is 25 yards down the embankment fishing. Baby inside car is screaming, and stinking to high heaven. What upset hubby the most was the baby was a little boy and just the age of our youngest at the time. Fishing guy is lucky his head is still attached to his shoulders.

  14. Officer Friendly

    If the child is placed with CPS there would have to be a hearing before the parent(s) could get the child back. Their home would most likely be inspected as well and neighbors interviewed.

  15. raine

    I think the hardest part of that kind of scenario, for me, would be remaining emotionally detached. Hell, I remember waiting patiently outside for someone to come out of a store to tell them what an asshole they were for leaving their DOG in a hot car…
    Agree with the above–I would SERIOUSLY want to punch somebody for being stupid enough to put a child in danger like that.
    Not to mention wanting to follow up on the case, see if the kid was all right afterward, what happened if it was placed with CPS, etc.
    You guys are good.

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