How To Get Hired Faster

  When you made your decision to become a police officer, you made a decision to change your life. And when you turned in your application, you took your first step in a grueling process towards achieving your goal.

Next in the gauntlet: the police written exam.

The first hurtle. The first cold sweat in a long line of cold sweats. Now's the time to untie the knot in your stomach and re-tighten your guts to prepare for the first punch of reality, you're actually on your way to becoming a police officer. Whether you hate tests or you ace tests to draw a bead on living your life behind a badge, you need to turn your mind into a diamond-dust whet stone and hone your wits razor-sharp. Your goal in the written test, your first step towards your badge, is simple and single-minded: get the highest scores possible for the highest ranking possible on the eligibility list. You don't just want to get on the list, you want to be in the top five--better yet, you want to be the first name on the list.


How can you do this?

Like I said, simply and single-mindedly. Prepare yourself by informing yourself. Arm yourself with hard facts about the test, which are yours for the asking from the recruiter, the department's HR section, or the department website. Identify your weakest areas on the test and reinforce your abilities in that area. Review spelling rules. Pick up, "The Elements of Style" by Strunk & White, and a high school level math book while you're at it. Then find a quiet spot with no distractions--like the library, and study.

If you don't read regularly start doing so now. Get a newspaper and read it, then read it out loud, then read it to someone else--then discuss what you've read and practice being a comprehensive reader. Have someone quiz you on articles, ads that were on the same page, the page number the article was on, what other articles are on the same page and anything else they can think of to test your memory and understanding.

Teach yourself to be ferociously observant, yet careful with your assumptions. Practice observing people, vehicles and places--memorize descriptions, then check what you think you saw for accuracy.

If you haven't gone on a ride along yet, schedule one today! And when you slide inside that patrol car forget every daydream or pre-conceived idea you ever had about police officers and police work. Wipe your mind clean and focus on every action that officer makes. Your prime objective is to learn about the 'why' that is the basis for an officers actions, reactions, and decisions. What observations are important to their work? Ask questions, take notes--throw yourself into the experience wholeheartedly and you'll walk away with a little piece of a badge attached.

The written test evaluates you on several areas of common knowledge--that's what the math, spelling and vocabulary books were for but there are other areas that test your range and use of common sense knowledge. These areas blend judgment skills, memory and observation skills and the simple ability to know left from right into complex questions that evaluate how you react and why.

And you want to react for the same 'why' as any police officer--right?

Take a look at the practice questions below for a taste of the test to come.

Use good judgment and common sense, as well as the information provided in the question, to answer the following questions.

Officer Bettis has arrived at the scene of a family disturbance. Two other officers are in the front yard of the residence, fighting with family members. Officer Bettis pulls out his departmentally approved baton and runs up to help one of the officers. A woman steps up and swings a broken beer bottle at Officer Bettis's head. What should he do next?

A. Try to snatch the beer bottle out of her hand and hope he doesn't get cut.

B. Strike her in a departmentally approved target area so she will drop the bottle.

C. Immediately call for more backup.

D. Dodge her blows and continue on to help the officer being attacked.

The correct answer is B. Police officers are required to subdue combative suspects as quickly and safely as possible. If Officer Bettis is in a situation where the baton is an approved weapon and he or other officers are in physical danger, he should use his baton. The situation does not change because the attacker is female. No other option is safe or feasible.

Officers Brady, Dion, and Rodriguez are called to the scene of a large fight in front of Omar's Grill. When they arrive, they see around 15 adult males bunched up in the parking lot punching each other. Officer Dion pulls out his canister of pepper spray. What should he do next?


A. Order the crowd to stop fighting.

B. Warn the other two officers that he's about to spray the crowd.

C. Warn the crowd that he has pepper spray.

D. Stand downwind of the crowd before spraying.


The correct answer is B. According to step 1 in the procedure, the officer should warn the other officers before he takes further action. The officer does want the crowd to stop fighting and will order them to do so, but choice A is step 2. Choice C is not listed as a step, and choice D is not a good answer because the officer will always want to be upwind of pepper spray, not downwind.

Officers Perez and Navarro arrive at City Hall to find a mob rocking Mayor Dickson's car back and forth in the street. Officer Navarro shouts to Officer Perez that he is going to use his pepper spray. What should he do next?

A. Stand downwind of the crowd.

B. Shout to the crowd to disperse.

C. Warn the crowd that pepper spray is about to be deployed.

D. Stand upwind of the crowd before using the spray.


The correct answer is B. The officer has already taken step 1, having warned his partner that he is about to use the spray. Step 2 is to order the crowd to disperse.

So, how did you do? Did any of the answers surprise you? Did you learn anything?

Practice questions are extremely useful in your preparation for the written test, not only for becoming accustomed to a police mindset, but also for becoming accustomed to reading a situation carefully and completely in order to make the best decision for action.

What you face in the written test is an evaluation of your approach to life and your ability to repeatedly and consistently handle critical incidents within highly regulated parameters. You are being evaluated on dependability of effort and thought, adaptability of action, reliability of reaction and durability of decision-making. You are being tested to find out if you possess the unique combination of components that will allow you not only to withstand the rigors of police work, but to thrive and excel as a police officer.

Take a stand for your dream. Make a pledge to succeed. Arm yourself for victory. This is about your life. This is about your decision to make your dream a reality. You can win through this challenge because you are well-prepared, primed for pursuit and your sights are firmly fixed on your target--the top of the eligibility list and first shot at the door to your dream.

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