This past Friday marked the conclusion of two weeks worth of interviewing applicants who are competing to be a part of MPD's fall pre-service class. The finalists have survived a gauntlet of assessments including written testing, take-home essays, timed essays, physical agility standards, oral board panels, a rigorous background investigation, and further interviewing by one of our two contracted psychiatrists. By the time I get to speak with them on a one-on-one basis, the "pack" has been culled from several hundred to thirty-eight.
In addition to a Chief's interview, the remaining candidates will also be afforded a four-hour ride-along with a veteran officer, which gives the individual a chance to experience a little of what an officer assigned to Patrol Services may encounter. But mostly it's a time when any/all questions can be asked of the officer without any spin or filter. We want our potential employees to come through the front door with eyes wide open as to what their "new" career may hold for them; not a "bait-and-switch" in which none of the "negatives" ever get discussed. Transparency being the watchword of the day for systems and processes that the "public" should expect from us also holds true internally with those who would aspire to work for us.
The ride-along is not intended to "scare" anyone off; rather, it is designed to provide an exhaustive inventory of the dimensions required of an officer and to make certain that the candidate has embraced ALL of the elements without rationalizing/discounting/or denying critical functions that are part and parcel of this career!
When the candidate gets to my office, they are understandably nervous and then, I suspect, somewhat shocked to enter an "office" that looks more like a Notre Dame sports bar. (As I live in this place, may as well be comfortable and this includes my foldout hide-a-bed--a compromise with staff as my original request was for a "Murphy" bed . . .google it, millennialist). A glass of water drawn for the candidate either immediately gets drained as if they had passed through the Sahara or never gets touched owing to anxiety!
Many of the candidates are newly graduated from college but the majority have been out in the world and have had numerous life/work experiences. Some of the candidates have interned with us as part of their college degree requirements. The majors run the gamut from teaching, business, social work, legal studies, journalism, and criminal justice (and everything imaginable in-between).
This year, one of the questions I asked noted that in the midst of applications for entry-level police officers showing marked decreases across the country (and to some extent, our own Department as well), why in the world would you want to be a part of this profession? Indeed, I cited a survey taken by a major police magazine last year in which 85% of respondents polled (all of whom were employed in the field of law enforcement) said that they would NOT encourage a friend or loved one to enter into this profession!
As someone who started this journey on July 11, 1983, and seeing the pendulum shift back and forth about public attitudes toward the police, I think my question was posed partly to see whether the candidate clearly understood the toxicity of the national narratives being discussed but also partly in search of a more promising, more hopeful tomorrow. Thankfully, these candidates provided both the understanding and acknowledgement that there is much work to be done in fostering relationships of trust with our constituents before meaningful partnerships can move forward. But on a very personal level, I was so encouraged and affirmed that there are still courageous and resolved individuals who unequivocally want to be a part of the nobility of the calling to "serve.'' In a world that is seemingly defined by a "celebrity-fixated" society, where all-too-often one hears about what's best for "me," "myself," and "I," and where pursuit of materialism is the measurement tool for "success," these candidates and their responses gave me hope!
Whenever I make decisions on hiring and promoting, I always reflect on whether the qualities of the candidate (and their responses) embody my five "C's" . . . Character, competency, caring, commitment and collegiality. Next, I need the candidate to thoroughly know and be able to recite our mission statement and our MPD core values. Third, with respect to the 5 "C's" as well as the mission statement and core values, the candidate (or person seeking promotion) must be able to demonstrate examples that they are doing more than "talking the talk" and vomiting up what I need to hear; they must show me that they are also "walking the walk" in a way that embraces these principles.
After two weeks of listening to aspiring candidates, I am encouraged that the legacy of "selfless service" is alive and well. Coming off of "good shepherd" Sunday, I am heartened that we have many such shepherds amongst us, anxious to serve our flocks! For that, we can all feel greatly blessed!