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.