During the interview process, allow them to ask questions as well of the department. I have sat on both recruit screening panels and as a chief. I have had a variety of questions from prospects but they never fail me. These are but a few:
- When can I expect to make detective or sergeant or whatever?
- I have a (BS, Masters) degree in criminology when will I be assigned to detectives?
- Since I have a degree in psychology, I will be your profiler - right?
It is extremely important to reiterate to them immediately that there are two truisms about police work. One is an entry level position. I too was once a rookie cop. God did not miracle me into a chief's position. Secondly, this is work. Yes, I used a four letter word that ended in K and don't be afraid of it.
The reverse questioning allows you to get a handle on the expectations of the applicant. All too many have misconceptions about position of police officer. In my era it was more of the Adam 12 generation; the professional goal-oriented officers. In the last decade we have seen a transition with community-orientated policing (COP) and a swing towards problem-solving. This brought many into the vocation for entry level work, and then spring boarded them into other careers. Next, in this decade came the fascination with profiling and forensics - enter the amateur psychologist and scientist; who has to have some police experience. Then, September 11th came and now law enforcement faced a new challenge that we are still tooling up for - terrorism. Taking civilian law enforcement with civilian rules of engagement and facing international terrorism that knows no rules; this is a new world. We have to take our young applicants to the academy and create warriors, now more so than ever.
Creating a warrior mind-set
Many years ago, when I was rookie, the academy was teeming with post Viet Nam veterans. Many took advantage of the GI Bill to attend college and advantage of the GI Bill's extra financials that it afforded you. Additionally, most were male, athletic, used to using weapons and the concepts of interactions of physical conflict. Without mincing my words, we were used to sweating and have tasted our own blood; we could take orders. Many of us just wanted a job - period.
In the transitions of several generations since then, several things have occurred. There has been more and more influx of the following for good and bad.
- More women - this is good for we need to diversify our ranks and be more reflective of society. They are exceptionally great and skillful in interpersonal skills and can handle themselves. I had one partner who was tougher than most men, I respect Gerry greatly.
- More college educated prior to employment - these are more prone to question why rather to follow orders. One I had to train wanted to discuss the social-economic plight of urban mankind during a violent domestic call rather than seeking cover. Sometimes, college does not produce warriors.
- Less athletic - It is a pity, but our country is having more obese children, more emphasis on no child left behind, so they can play video games. Get their butts off the sofa and out on the field playing contact sports! Team sports are declining, which lowers team building.
- Less military - if it was not for the recent Iraqi Freedom we would not have that many vets to recruit from. The military experience is an invaluable experience and I thank God for mine daily.
- Less physical contact - Ask your recruits this question: How many of you have been in a fight before? You will be surprised, if not shocked. I was raised as a rough and tumbled Scotch - Irish upbringing; yes I scuffed my knuckles a few times. In this world of time out and no martial arts, we have a lot that have never tasted their own blood before.
Caveat - I am not making levity of any of these, please! So, do not send hate mail to me or to this publication. But, there was a transition in the law enforcement training from traditional para-military style police academy to the academic format and we lost something in doing so. Now, the pendulum needs to swing back! Quickly and with full force! We have a lost generation of mid-level managers out there that do not understand that we are in a global war of terrorism, gangs and narcotic violence.