Police department to hire new officerA new police officer is coming to Hastings, and an exhaustive search is under way for that new officer.
By: Chad Richardson, The Hastings Star-Gazette
A new police officer is coming to Hastings, and an exhaustive search is under way for that new officer.
In September, Chief of Police Paul Schnell went to the city council and asked for their approval to seek applicants for future openings. Last week, when an arbitrator’s ruling upheld the city’s decision to terminate an officer last summer, a position was officially opened up.
Since last fall, work has been under way to narrow the field of candidates, and it appears as though the city is just about two months away from having someone come on board.
“We have some phenomenal people (in the running),” Schnell said.
After a posting was created, applications were due in early November. Some 305 people applied, and all were given scores on their resume based on certain criterion. A total of 100 points were possible, and everyone who qualified started with 70 points.
Additional points could be earned for having a four-year degree, for having spent a year as a license police officer elsewhere, for working in loss prevention, for being a veteran and for having a second language.
All the qualifying candidates were then asked to take a written test, and nearly 250 people agreed to do so over three days last fall.
The test included a standardized law enforcement test with a number of scenarios, some math and some general knowledge questions. Candidates were also asked to complete a report writing examination. Each of those two tests was worth 100 points.
The top 50 candidates to emerge from the resume portion, the law enforcement test and the report writing exam then advanced to the second phase of the process.
Those 50 candidates were then interviewed by two separate panels. The panels were composed of a police sergeant, a police officer and one representative of the community. The candidates also completed a police report editing examination. They were tasked with pointing out what was missing from the report, what shouldn’t have been in the report and what was wrong grammatically.
“We want to make sure the people we select are creating a work product that is defensible in court,” Schnell said. “We don’t want writing skills to become an issue in a trial. We have to think about that as they are being evaluated.”
The two panels gave rankings on each candidate, and the top 18 were then invited to come in for the third phase of the process.
The third phase including three 20-minute interviews.
The first panel included City Administrator Dave Osberg and Assistant City Administrator Melanie Mesko Lee. The second panel included lieutenants Jim Rgnonti and Joe Kegley, and the final interview was held with Schnell.
Each of the five interviewers could give candidates up to 100 points, making 500 points possible. Of the 18 candidates, one eventually withdrew, leaving 17. Those 17 were then taken to the high school for a physical abilities test.
On the track they did a 300-meter run and a 1.5-mile run. Candidates then did their maximum number of pushups in one minute and their maximum number of situps in one minute. Four people did not pass the minimum physical standards and were eliminated.
The remaining 13 candidates were then ranked on their scores from the five interviews. Of those, five were selected as finalists. They were notified last Wednesday, Feb. 15, and were the subjects of complete background investigations.
There’s a criminal and driving background investigation, as well as the collection and verification of their education records. There are interviews with their most recent employers and contacts are made with family members, neighbors and friends.
Those investigations are submitted to Schnell and Osberg.
In the end, the final hiring authority is Osberg. He will make a final offer to that person, contingent upon that person passing three additional components. There is a psychological examination, a medical examination and a drug test. Provided that person passes those three tests, he or she would join the force.
That doesn’t mark the end of the hiring process, though. Once the new officer joins the force, he or she would be on probation. There is a three- to four-month long field training process, where they work with a senior officer who evaluates them. Several other phases of training take place during their one-year probation.
“It is a year of training, evaluation and development,” Schnell said. “We want to make sure that they are representing the needs of the city, that they’re doing it safely, and that this is a place they want to spend the remainder of their career.”
Provided the candidate excels in the field, he or should would eventually be recommended for patrol.
“It’s obvious: There’s a lot to this,” Schnell said. “Given the recent events that were highlighted, there’s good reason to vet people to this extent. No matter what, people need to know that the process these people are going through, by anyone’s standards, it’s complete and comprehensive.”
All of the tests have done their job – they took a massive field of applicants, and narrowed it down to the best of the best, Schnell said.
“All of the 17 people as finalists were incredible,” he said. “There were many people in the first and second phases who we knew would serve us well, too, but you have to go through some process to get to this point.”
The list of candidates that the department compiled is good for up to two years. If there are any future openings, the top candidates would be contacted and the hiring process could be shortened considerably.
While there are standards for physical fitness that potential officers had to pass, no such standards exist for current officers.
Schnell is working to develop fitness goals for officers beginning in 2013, he said.
“We’re not looking to create a bunch of bodybuilders,” he said. “We are looking to create a level of fitness and physical ability that will help people be healthier. That can have great impact on health insurance and work-related injuries. The more fit people are, the research is clear, the better able they are to deal with the demands of the job.”