The process for hiring a new police officer for the Bellevue Police Department takes time, said Sgt. Andy Jashinske, public information officer at BPD.
Monday was the opening for applicants to begin signing up to take a written and physical test to become an officer. The actual testing, in August, is just the first step of many to becoming an officer.
BPD tests twice a year, and Jashinske said more than 100 people, on average, apply.
“It just depends on the time, how well we market it, try to put the information out there that we are testing,” he said.
Jashinske said BPD advertises through social media and going out in the community to promote the testing.
“I think now we’re trying to hit a younger generation, so we want to put it online,” he said. “We try to put it on Facebook, Twitter, if we can go to job fairs, we try to do that.”
Jashinske has also been to Bellevue University to talk with criminal justice students about the testing, too.
Applicants should possess at least a high school diploma or GED and be at least 21 years old at the time of academy graduation. Applicants should have no felony or serious misdemeanor arrests, be physically fit and be of good moral character.
A college degree is preferred, but not mandatory, and military service is also given consideration.
How many of those applicants go through the entire process depends on the number of positions available.
“We get three names for every position available — if we have 10 positions available, we get 30 names from the list.
“If we had two positions, we’d only get six,” Jashinske said, referencing the state statute on hiring for civil service positions.
Jashinske said BPD chooses individuals from the top and works its way down because those at the top of the list are, presumably, the best fit to become an officer.
Two traits BPD looks for in applicants are those who have an equal amount of physical and mental abilities.
“You have to cut from both those molds and try to get somebody who has both of those pieces,” he said.
From the time the applicant tests, the interviewing process, medical, psychological and polygraph tests and being hired, Jashinske said it takes about six months.
Jashinske said it takes this long because the department wants to make sure it’s thorough with the process, so it doesn’t rush hiring a candidate who could do harm to the department or themselves.
“I also think it speaks to the candidate, too, that they’re willing to wait that amount of time and to go through that and not give up,” Jashinske said.
“You have to give more of yourself than other positions.”
One trait Jashinske said is most important in becoming an officer is honesty.
“We can’t have people who are going to be lying,” he said. “Once you lose your credibility, you can’t be a police officer anymore.”
Jashinske said BPD is, above everything, looking for good, dedicated people.
“We want people to apply if A) they think they have the right moral character and character and integrity we’re looking for, and B) if they think they can do it,” he said.
“It used to be said that out of 100 applicants, there’s maybe only a couple of those qualified to do it. It’s hard to find qualified applicants, but we’re looking for them and we realize the people we’re hiring now are the future of the department.”
Below is the step-by-step process from testing to hiring:
- Beginning Monday and July 31, applicants sign up to test through Morrow and Associates.
- Testing begins in August, which consists of a written and physical exam. Applicants also fill out their background information at the end of testing.
- If the applicant passes the physical test, the score obtained from the written test is given to BPD, followed by the background information.
- After receiving the test scores, BPD sets up oral board interviews, which is a panel consisting of police officers and a representative from Civil Service Commission. Applicants are scored by the panel. Once all applicants go through the interview process, the city receives the information and they come up with final scoring. Those scores come back to BPD and it begins the training process.
- Once BPD receives the names of applicants who passed, in order from first to last, the background checks begin. The background investigation consists of trying to find out information on people, calling references, speaking with previous employers, searching credit histories and finding criminal histories to get to know the applicant.
- Once the background information is finished, the candidate meets with the background investigator for an interview.
- After the background investigation interview, the candidates go for a ride along with an officer to get to know Bellevue.
- The candidate, and if applicable his or her spouse, meets with Jashinske for an in-home interview. During this meeting, Jashinske goes out to the applicant’s home after hours to give them an idea of pay, benefits and to find out more about them in a casual setting.
- If BPD is still interested, it arranges a meeting between the candidate and police chief. The chief conducts their interview and decides if they find the applicant fit for the position.
- After receiving the chief’s approval, BPD makes the applicant a conditional offer of employment, which is offering a spot available, but on the condition they participate in a more tests to make sure the applicant is still suitable. The three tests are a psychological examination to ensure they have strong mental abilities, medical testing to make sure they have the physical abilities and a polygraph test to verify the information the candidate tells is true.
- If they make it through all three tests, Jashinske writes a letter to the city administrator stating BPD would like to hire the candidate. Once BPD receives the city’s approval, they set a start date and the candidate starts working at the start date.
- Following hiring, the new officers attend the Sarpy-Douglas Law Enforcement Academy in Grand Island for 20 weeks of training. There are also about eight or nine months of monitoring before the new officer is ready to be on his or her own.