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Does Size Matter? Small Agencies: The Cop Career Gatekeepers

Does Size Matter? Small Agencies: The Cop Career Gatekeepers

Westmoreland Police Department (Tenn.)

As the economic crisis for local government has deepened over the past few years, so too has the belt been tightened at law enforcement agencies. Once a seller’s market, the crime fighter hiring endeavor has morphed into a buyer’s market. Many police departments and sheriff’s offices have found that, in the event that they are able to hire, they have the ability to pick from a much larger pool of applicants than they had in years past.

Applicants in an increasing number find themselves thinking: “If only the right person believed in me, I could have a chance to prove myself.” Don’t despair, dear reader, as there is a way to make that thinking work for you and here’s how.

Weed Out Philosophy

Larger agencies have multiple step screening processes that involve many people and have are oriented to screening those out that do not fit the range of criteria. For example, they may have a drug usage policy for new hires. If you fall out of that range, you are out of the process. They may have a college or military service experience requirement. Again, if you are not within the parameters of that policy, you are disqualified.

At larger agencies, in general, there is a drive to have the process focus on what excludes people and not necessarily what includes people. We have all seen, either first hand or through the forums and discussion boards, officers say that a certain person would make for a great police officer save for a certain indiscretion many years ago that was a disqualifier under a static and unbending process.

That is not to say that larger agency officers and deputies aren’t excellent officers; they sure are terrific. But the larger, bureaucratic methods used to manage the avalanche of applicants means that they have to adhere to an objective, cookie cutter approach that also guards against veering from the strict criteria.

Many people are involved in the process and the ability to say yes to an applicant is restricted by the rigidity of the screening process. These are not gatekeepers that can grant you access if any part of you falls outside of that narrow parameter.

In order to get that chance and get your foot in the door, you need to become more creative and seek out places where the gatekeeper authority is vested in single person or handful of people. Further that gatekeeper individual or people has to have the authority to use their flexibility and subjectivity to see you as a person worth taking a chance on.

As a hiring municipal police gatekeeper myself, I had second chances applicants and they turned out to be fine officers. They were investigated further and the drive was to figure out ways to justify taking the chance; not the other way around.

But where, you ask, are those gatekeepers that hold the keys?

Small Agency Gatekeepers

Smaller agencies are a great place to find those gatekeepers that are not stuck to long, “weed out” oriented process. Often dismissed by those seeking the big name and pay that mega departments bring, smaller agencies bring much to the table.

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  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 2 years ago


    Even if a year or more has passed since you worked, you can still find a job. Several steps such as attending professional events, filling out job applications and working with employment agencies are similar to what they were years ago. Others steps have changed with the advent of the Internet. Today you can also use social networks, online job boards and company websites to find a job from manager positions to truck driving jobs in tucson az.

  • Coloradologo_max600_max50


    about 4 years ago


    One of my favorite concepts from the Academy was "totality of the circumstances". We are asked to look at things from a big picture perspective. The hiring process should be designed to hire "the best person for the job". Unfortunately the hiring process for many agencies seems to be a burocratic mess that rewards people who are good at getting hired by police departments, not being good prospective officers. On the other hand, I've learned that there are a lot of politics happening in the background at small departments. This is how people who barely pass the academy or POST test get hired while people with 4.0 academy GPA's don't. I'm learning that WHO you know can be as important as WHAT you know in the PD hiring process.

    I don't mean to sound overly negative, and by no means am I questioning the quality of people currently working in departments. I am just saying that a better balance of "the process" with "the person" might make things work better. I'm always amazed that my friends who work for the agencies with the most tediously complicated hiring process seem to have the most people not making it through FTO and the highest turnover rates. Either the process doesn't work as well as they think it will, or it is a symptom of a bigger "red tape" issue that turns people off once they get there.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    small agency=good experience to do alittle of everything

  • Bdulrge7old_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Great article, completely rang true in my experience so far in the application process. Fortunately, I am in the final waiting step with a department with over 500 Officers.

  • Sfa_iv_max50


    over 4 years ago


    A Mouth full for the Small....

  • Pug_max600_max50


    over 4 years ago


    You learn to do it all.

  • Edres_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Some of the most diligent officers did not have a perfect backround and were afforded an opportunity to let they're talents shine on the right side of the law

  • Edres_max50


    over 4 years ago



  • 100_0171_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I got lucky enough to find a chief that took a chance on me. While the bigger agencies had that weeding out process, my chief looked at my drive, desire to learn and commitment to the job. Those that leave the smaller departments for the money, I understand. I want the shield. I want The Job.

  • Img_0103_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Words well spoken "JohnS1111"... And I wish you well Sir...

  • Fallenherobadge-3-1_max160_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Great article.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    Dr. Weinblatt, Thank you for the encouraging words in a time when jobs are at a premium and applicants are abundant. In this day and age many people are in denial of their past and if they have made mistakes they need to own up and take responsibility for those decisions. I am ready to retire from the military with a spotless career and have been very diligent to do the right thing even when no one is looking - Integrity. I have been applying for large, medium and small police jobs for the past year and I am encouraged that departments will look for the qualities that are honed in the military. I have served for 20 and look forward to continued service to the good people of the community where I will eventually work.
    I am discouraged by the fact that people that do not meet the basic qualifications are still being considered. If you have a visible tattoo and the dept. does not accept this, then don't even apply. Same applies for drug use, don't bother. If the applicant lacks integrity to follow the law when no one is looking, they will be the same ones to twist policy if it suits them when they screw up. If you screw up, admit it, take the punishment and move on.
    In this day of limited budgets and positions, let the qualified applicants shine and get the jobs. All others may want to rethink their past indiscretions. For those of you who think this is harsh, or is a tough pill to swallow, then I am probably talking about you, think about it.

  • Picture_204_max50


    over 4 years ago


    good synopsis of smaller agencies. working in a smaller agency ,there are times (almost every day) when we are in an agency assist to our neighboring bigger city and sheriffs departments, wheather it's follow up to a theft , a car chase , atl a vehicle with drugs or involved in human smuggling. the added benefit is we depend on each other and communicate beyond our jurisdiction.
    many cases have been solved involving inter agency relations.
    the negatives (as some might think) is there is no gang task , accident, traffic,arson units in small agencies. we are the responder , investigator and contact for most of our cases. as referenced in the article , some get the training and knowledge and move on to bigger agencies but also as stated ; the grass ain't always greener on the other side.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    I lved my second department. It was just the sheriff, undersheriff and me. It wa sgood for education and taining on the job. Long time ago.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    I started police work as a part time officer in 1972 I went on full time in 1981. This was a small police department. I worked my way all the way to the top and learned a lot in this small department of only 50 officers. I am glad that I started with a small department and stayed with them it payed off . because I worked hard and new all the officers I made it all the way to chief of police

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