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Three new officers expected to join Hastings police force

By the end of the month, the City of Hastings expects to have job offers extended to three new police officers to fill current and upcoming vacancies in the department.

Three veteran officers have retired already – Richard Brown in December, Rene Doffing in January and Steve Scharfe just this past week. One of those positions has already been filled, leaving the department two officers short of filling its roster. A third retirement is anticipated for May, said Chief of Police Bryan Schafer.

The hiring process is a long and detailed one, so it makes sense to plan ahead for the May retirement and hire and extra officer now, Schafer said. Although the new hires will put the department one officer over its budget, the overlap will only be for a couple months, a short enough time that the difference in pay between the retiring officers and the new officers will cover the extra cost, Schafer said. And considering the process required to select a new officer, the city will actually spend less to hire the extra officer now than it would to hold another hiring this summer.

The candidate pool started with 126 applicants in November. Currently, the pool has been narrowed down to eight, and those eight are undergoing detailed background investigations. Three will be offered positions.

“We’re very excited about the candidate pool,” Schafer said.

If all goes well, job offers could go out at the end of February, and the new officers could start working sometime in March.

Unique process

When it comes to selecting a new police officer, Hastings is unique. The process used here is extensive and detailed, and it’s causing a bit of excitement among those who are involved.

The hiring process varies from department to department, Schafer said, but typically, applicants that meet the basic requirements take an exam and are interviewed by a panel or by police department staff. A job offer may be extended after the applicant passes a physical and psychological exam.

In Hastings, however, applicants have a much more rigorous process. Those that meet basic requirements are each given two panel interviews. They’re given a scenario test on a computer where their reactions are analyzed. They have to pass the psychological and physical exams, and then they go through two more interview panels before a thorough background check is done. No job offers are given out unless an applicant passes all the tests.

“This is pretty nerve-racking,” Schafer said.

The other unique aspect of Hastings’ hiring process is that interview panels include not only police and city staff, but community members and even youth, all of whom help decide which officers are extended a job offer.

Putting new officer candidates through such an extensive hiring process is all about fit, Schafer said. It’s one thing to have a first impression, but multiple interviews give interviewers a better sense of who the candidate is and if he or she will be a natural fit for Hastings.

Hastings’ process also places some responsibility on the community for making sure the city has outstanding officers.

“There’s nothing worse than making the wrong call and hiring the wrong officer,” Schafer said.

In Hastings, the responsibility falls on more than just a small handful of people.

“We’re all in it together,” he said

The community involvement aspect is what’s getting some people excited. Those community members and youth who are involved usually find it exciting and eye-opening to see exactly what new candidates have to go through, Schafer said. They’ve also created a bit of a local buzz about the process, he added.