I’m your average guy. Nobody special. Like millions of other children who have now grown into adults, each one of them, myself included, will say they’ve grown up in the best place in the world. In my case it was a small town in central New York State.
Growing up with a brother and a lot of cousins and friends, I always had a lot of fun playing football, Army and cops and robbers. Never once though, through my whole childhood, did I dream of growing up and becoming a Police Officer. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know a single person who did. Our main objective was to join the military.
As an Infantryman in the Army who served during the cold war, 84′-88′ and then again in the Army Reserve, 93′-95′, it wasn’t until 1994 that I gave any thought to becoming a Police Officer. It was during a weekend drill with the reserve that I had a fellow reservist tell me that he thought I would make a good Arizona Highway Patrol Officer and that his agency was currently hiring.
At the time, I was working as a ramp agent for Delta Airlines, loading and unloading luggage for the traveling public. A great job but it was only part-time.
In the fall of 94′, I contacted the Arizona Highway Patrol to get additional information about the hiring process. I also spoke to my friend for advice about preparing for the written test. I was told that I could expect to be in competition with over 1000 other applicants for the 24 positions that the Patrol was hiring for.
To prepare for the written test, I purchased a study guide developed by Barron’s. Looking back after having taken the test, it definitely prepared me for the test. Going into the test, I was in line with about 50 or 60 other people, once I got into the building, the other 400 or so people were already seated. Phoenix was one of three locations where the written test was being provided. Tucson and Flagstaff were the other two. As I waited in line to get inside, I overheard a couple of other guys saying that this was their third test this week as they tested with two other police agencies as well. They mentioned that nobody ever gets through the testing process for a police job on the first try.
After the test, I received a letter in the mail indicating that my written test score was 91% and because I am a Veteran, 5 preference points was added to my score for a final score of 96%. The test score was high enough to allow me to proceed in the hiring process. The next test was the physical fitness exam. This exam was scheduled for mid February 1995.
Prior to embarking on this new adventure, I started having medical issues with not one but both of my feet. After multiple visits to the podiatrist and multiple injections of cortisone into my heels, an x-ray revealed two small tumors in my feet called Mortons Neuroma and surgery was the only option. The surgery was conducted on both feet, one month before the physical fitness exam. I was lucky to have stayed in shape due to my Army Reserve duty and I recuperated fairly quickly after the surgery. I was able to successfully complete the physical fitness portion of the hiring process.
The next portion of the hiring process was the background check along with an Oral Board exam. I felt sorry for the Officer who conducted my background check, because he had to contact every single employer I had since High School, which was about 12. Prior to the Oral Board exam, I was advised NOT to wear my Army Class A uniform, but instead, wear a nice business suit. Advice I still offer the other Veterans to this day. At the Oral Board, I sat in front of two Officers and one Sergeant. Each one would ask me a series of scenario type questions. As I answered the questions, they would write on a form they had in front of them. I felt my time in the Army prepared me well for the Oral Board exam. I sat in front of quite a few boards while in the Army during competition for Soldier of the Month, AUSA Soldier of the Year and to become a Sergeant. Again, after the Oral Board was complete, I was advised that I would be notified by mail of my results.
Approximately one week later, I received the letter in the mail. I was unsuccessful in obtaining a passing score for the Oral Board Exam. I was crushed to say the least, but like those guys said in the written test line, it’s very rare to become a Police Officer on the 1st try. At that point in the process, I had a lot of family and friends cheering for me so it felt like I was letting them down as well. After getting to that point of the process, I was now very determined to become a Police Officer whether it was for the Arizona Highway Patrol or one of the other Police Departments in the Phoenix metro area.
About a month after being notified by mail that I failed the Oral Board exam, I was working at Delta Airlines when my roommate called. He stated that a lady at the Highway Patrol called and needed to speak to me. After providing me with her number, I immediately called her. She asked me where I have been and whether or not I was still interested in being a Highway Patrol Officer. I told he about the letter I received and she stated that the letter was a mistake. She stated that a question that was asked of me during the Oral Board was contested and eventually removed for the scoring process and because of that, I obtained a passing score. She again asked me if I was still interested and of course I said yes. It was at that point, I had 3 days left to complete the Physical exam, polygraph exam and meet with a psychologist. On Friday of that week, I was offered a position with the Highway Patrol and was advised to report the following Monday to the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy in Phoenix.
Even though the odds may make things look overwhelming, it is possible to pass the process on the 1st try. Twenty years later, I can look back on a great career that included time spent in the Highway Patrol, Gang Unit investigating street gangs and prison gangs, Bomb Squad and SWAT Team as a Breacher. I spent time doing dignitary protection for people like the Speaker of the House for the U.S. Congress, Senators and Presidents. I worked at special events like the 2001 World Series, 2 Super Bowls and numerous College Bowl Games. I worked off-duty jobs including 20 years for the Arizona Cardinals.
Being a Police Officer is a great career choice, don’t let the current negative climate towards police officers and police departments change your mind. Don’t let physical disabilities get in the way. During my career, I had an additional 5 surgeries on my feet but I was still able to serve on the bomb squad and SWAT Team.
Law Enforcement agencies nationwide are currently having a difficult time recruiting. For those that wish to continue serving their communities after serving our country, feel free to contact me for free advice and mentoring.