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Police officer: How I got my job and where I'm going

Becoming a police officer involves a rigorous seven-step hiring process, including a questionnaire, written test, background check, polygraph, department interview, and medical examination. Successful candidates enter a six-month police academy for intensive training. The journey is tough, but rewarding, offering diverse job assignments and opportunities for career growth.

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Video transcript

In order to be hired and make it into the police academy, it is a pretty long and and rigorous hiring process. It's a seven-step hiring process, so right now we start with a questionnaire, it's online. After they do that, they come take the written test and once they pass the written, then it's full speed ahead. They have their initial background, where they sit down with a background officer. If the candidate has no problems or if they've rectified the problems that did exist, They'll be moved on to the polygraph, the department interview, the medical. They'll be assigned a background investigator who will do an approximate three-month-long investigation where they look at every place you've ever lived, every employer that's ever hired you, your references, your neighbors, your friends. They'll look into your social media accounts, everything that you can possibly think of, to make sure that we really know who we're hiring. Once you pass the seven steps, you're certified for hire. It doesn't mean that you will be guaranteed a spot in the academy, it just means that you are eligible to be considered. We're hiring every 28 days, a class of at least fifty candidates, and then they enter into the six-month-long police academy. The police academy I think holds a special place in all of our hearts. It's six months long, it's personally the most difficult thing that I've ever done. But I'm extremely proud to be able to say that I went through it. For six months you start at 6:30, however you have to be there around five to shine your shoes, shine your gear, make sure everything is immaculate, your hair is done. You finish the day around 2:30, but most of the class will stay after for study halls. After that, you graduate, hopefully, after your six months. I mean it's pretty rigorous, you have PT, it's a lot of running, a lot of push-ups and sit-ups. So we really urge our candidates to be physically fit and not just, yes I can run a mile without stopping, but this is really, really difficult. So that's a big, big portion the academy. Then you have shooting, you have tactics, law, building searches, there's a lot of moving parts to it. So it is very stressful, but once you get to that finish line and you graduate, you wear that badge, then they're assigned to a division, where they start their probation. Not every candidate who goes through the academy will successfully complete the academy. In a perfect world it would be 100% retention rate, that's really what we're all going for here, but we realize that sometimes candidates have personal issues that they need to deal with, so they need to resign. Many times they're not physically fit, and then sometimes you have candidates that they, what we call double fail things. So in the course of their academy life they have to take many, many different tests, and sometimes the recruit officers will have trouble. For example, if they feel a shooting test they are given another chance, and if they fail again then unfortunately they have to resign. However, one of our main responsibilities is to not let that candidate go off into oblivion, we want to get them back into another class as soon as possible so they don't lose that momentum. As far as the candidates that we receive, we have such a diverse array of people that are applying for this job, and that's exactly what we want. You do not need to have any sort of special degree to be a police officer, all you need is a high school diploma. You need to be a US citizen, or at least show proof that you have applied, and are in the process of getting your citizenship. You need to have a background that's befitting of an officer, and that's something that they'll look into in backgrounds as well, but no felony convictions, no domestic violence issues, things like that. A lot of people ask us, do I have to have a criminal justice degree, or will that help me? And my answer to that is, it will never hurt, but if you're waiting to get a degree to apply, I would just urge the candidate to go ahead and apply, because the department offers tuition reimbursement, so if they would like to pursue that later in their career, that's available to them as well. My story of how I became an LAPD police officer is definitely not typical. I started working as a professional actress and singer when I was seven years old. I toured all over the world, all over the country as well as one of the lead roles in many different Broadway shows, and that was what I was always going to do. That was my plan all through high school, I was going to go back and be on Broadway, because it's just that easy, right. I graduated from high school and then I moved to New York and I went to NYU, got my degree in music and vocal performance, and I did a couple regional shows there. I was waiting tables in between auditions, the typical actress story, and after a few years it started dawning on me that this was difficult as an adult trying to pay my own bills, make my own way in New York, which is extremely expensive, you have a tiny closet of an apartment for $2,000 a month. Waiting for a break that may or may not come, and I just had to do some soul-searching and I thought I'm not willing to spend my whole life waiting for something that's not a sure bet. I wanted something more. I wanted a career that really fulfilled me. Yes I love singing, yes I love acting, it's a huge part of who I was, but I wanted it to be fun and it was starting not to be fun, because I was stressing over how was going to pay the rent. So I move back to California, my father was an LAPD officer for 34 years. He just retired on Tuesday actually. And I talked to him about what I was feeling and I said I don't know what to do, all I've ever done is sing and act. And so he threw the idea out there, he said, well you could always be a cop, and I will never forget, I laughed at him, I said, you gotta be crazy, a cop? Dad, I love you but that's not for me, I could never do that. And he called me out, he said why not? And I said well, I don't know I'm just not police officer material, they'd never take me, and he said, why not? And I said well, I don't have any military experience, you don't need that. Then I started thinking about it and he said look, I looked it up, there's a recruitment seminar next week, just go check it out, I'll take you out to dinner, if it's not for you, it's not for you. So I said alright, I'm getting dinner out of it, I'll go to the recruitment seminar. So I went and I remember there were blue balloons up and they had coffee and pastries, I thought, oh this isn't so bad. And then I sat down and I listened to a Sergeant speak, it was a female Sergeant who's actually now my supervisor, small world. She was speaking about her story and she had been a professional fitness model. Her background was very similar to mine, she had never dreamed that she would be a police officer and I found myself seeing a lot of me in her and I thought, wow, that's really impressive. I was looking at her uniform, I was looking at how happy she was to be a police officer. She was talking about how stable her life was. She always knew when her paycheck was coming. She was talking about her kids, how she's so happy to be able to provide for them. To take vacations if she wants, to still do her fitness career if she wants to, and I thought, wow, well maybe I could do that, and still do my singing, and this does sound like a really cool job. This is it an exciting career. They showed us videos of, you know, foot pursuits and getting the bad guy and investigations, working with your partner, and I thought, I want to do that. So I took the written exam, I got hired relatively quickly, and before I knew it, I was in the police academy. So once I was a B2, I did about five years of patrol. So I did get a lot of experience, and it was always in the back of my mind that I would love to work recruitment, because of the impact that it made on me coming through the process. I wanted to be able to do what that Sergeant did for me, to inspire them because this is such a special job that I'm so passionate about and I wanted to share that with other people, and I said, this is an assignment that I would love to have because, you know, you're still doing, you're still working with the community, but your focus is with candidates and I think I would enjoy that. So what I did was I started doing a little bit of research within the department to try to learn as much as I can about Recruitment Employment Division, and I just started talking to people, asking people, I had a classmate that worked the unit, so I asked her, you know, what would you suggest that I do? And one thing about life and work in general, not just the department, is that you have to be proactive, you can't wait for opportunities to come to you, because you'll be waiting a very long time and they may not come. So it's a very competitive thing. I had to make some connections, I did have to have an interview in order to come into the unit. After my interview I actually waited about a year to get the spot, and it was finally presented to me and I was extremely honored and happy to take it. As a police officer within the LAPD there are over 250 different job assignments, aside from being of patrol officer. You can be on the dive team, mounted unit, which is on horses. We even have an off-road unit, K9 Officer, Community Relations Officer, Gang and Narcotics, Detectives, Media Relations Officer, the list goes on and on and on. As far as my aspirations go, I always keep an open mind just because of the number of opportunities that the department has. I'm interested in possibly being a detective. A detective is assigned cases, you review reports that are taken by officers, and you try to solve them. You prosecute them, you file these cases with the District Attorney or the City Attorney, depending on the level of the crime. You testify in court, you interview witnesses, victims, suspects. So I think that would be pretty interesting. Someone who's interested in being a police officer should definitely think about the decisions that they're making and how that will affect them long-term. Like I said, we do have a very thorough background investigation. I would definitely caution people to think about who they're hanging out with. So bad associations. We will be looking at friends, what you post on social media, even if you are not directly posting something, if you like something that's controversial, we'll look into that. Also schooling, even make sure you're getting good grades, showing that you have discipline and your completing your assignments. Also obvious things like not getting in trouble with the law and also things like drug use you have to really be careful of that. You don't want anything that will tarnish your background.