Posted 04.13.15 by Kate
I am a regular ordinary citizen, just like most of you reading this. I had the opportunity to be that regular citizen on a panel for the oral boards for two Tempe Police Department testing processes. First, I sat in on Officers who were testing to become a Sergeant and then for Lieutenants testing to be a Commander. The procedure was similar for both boards, candidates were given questions a few minutes prior to the interview and then had a set amount of time to answer the questions. Some questions were logistical, “what do you do if all officers are out responding to calls when a traffic accident occurs” and some were theoretical, “how do we apply our strategic plan to daily training.” (These aren’t actual questions used by the way, just examples). We couldn’t interact with them; they just had to talk for 25-45 minutes. They had to make sure they tracked their time and answered each of the questions, and this proved to be the most difficult for some of them.
Now, I know that these were members of the police department who have been studying and preparing for this test. I also recognize that this was a pretty tense environment, by design. Felt like an interrogation a little.
Let me tell you, these individuals really get it. They know their field, they understand the national climate, they have studied the history of law enforcement, they know Tempe’s local challenges and they are thoughtful about how our city is growing and how their department needs to respond to that growth. I was not fully up to speed on terms like “legitimacy and procedural justice in policing” and I wasn’t familiar with quotes by British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel who stated, “The police are the public and the public are the police.” However, these men and women were overflowing with data and history and suggested improvements for their police department.
Beyond their general professionalism and knowledge, these officers are stepping up in ways that don’t get reported. For example, one squad decided on a particularly hot day to take frozen water bottles and hand them out at bus stops. Another squad decided to take it upon themselves to create detailed electronic site maps for every school in the area in the event that there is ever a shooting (not a pleasant subject but glad we are prepared). Another squad is working to improve community relationships by starting a soccer league with cops and citizens. None of these things were directives from above, but self-prescribed initiatives. To say nothing of the research projects, board appointments and community initiatives that they are taking on daily, of their own accord.
You could tell that there is a culture here that runs from the top down, which is why the department has an 82% satisfaction rate by Tempe residents. In a nutshell, I was impressed. Did you know that the divorce rate for police officers is 25% higher than non-uniform individuals? This is a stressful career with demanding hours and a view into the most depraved individuals among us. I literally have slept better knowing the quality of the team that we have. Next time you see someone in uniform, take a moment and say “thank you.” I bet they would appreciate it.