Becoming a Police Officer: Video Exams, Essay Exams and Police Training (page 2)
Video and Essay Exams
Although the multiple-choice written exam is the most common test used by police agencies, particularly in medium-to-large-sized departments, other types of examinations are sometimes used-specifically, a video test and an essay test. These examinations basically evaluate the same ability areas tested in the typical written test, but use different formats.
Video testing is not yet a common method of testing law enforcement applicants, but it is gaining in popularity for several reasons. First, it allows applicants to view streaming video instead of merely reading a scenario. This avoids issues associated with reading errors and more closely simulates a police officer's experiences on the job. This test permits applicants with common sense but weaker academic skills to score well, while applicants with strong academic skills but weaker common sense often do poorly.
Second, video tests can be simultaneously graded. This means that the written or knowledge-based portion of the exam may be given the day before another aspect of the exam rather than several weeks in advance. The scores from video exams are quickly available for use in calculating an applicant's total score on all of the law enforcement tests. Finally, these tests are easy to administer. They do not require a proctor to set a time limit; the program merely ends at the end of the allotted time. These tests can be set to vary the presentation of questions, making it more difficult for applicants to cheat.
Finally, video tests are easy to update on an annual or semi-annual basis. The cost of developing a test and then generating brand new paper materials every time an exam is given can be quite high. Video tests are cost-effective to develop and are flexible enough to allow them to be modified for every examinee to limit opportunities for cheating.
In a typical video test, the viewer sees a series of short videos and then answers any questions presented. The questions are usually in multiple-choice format. However, the focus of the questions is much broader than the focus of questions presented in written exams. The question may be phrased to evaluate social skills or one's ability to correctly perceive the danger involved in a situation. The questions may also be phrased to assess the same types of abilities evaluated by standard written exams, such as problem sensitivity and the ability to memorize.
Essay exams are an uncommon tool for evaluating law enforcement applicants, but a few mid-size cities do use this question format. Essays are actually an effective tool for evaluating written expression, reasoning, and problem sensitivity. They also provide the law enforcement agency with an opportunity to evaluate the applicant's thinking processes and common sense. Multiple-choice questions prevent agencies from seeing how an applicant might evaluate a scenario without direction, while essay exams give an applicant wide latitude to exhibit common sense skills. Essay exams also provide law enforcement agencies a way to see how an applicant might evaluate a scenario without direction, and an insight into possible personality disorders inappropriate for a law enforcement officer. Multiple-choice questions do not facilitate such fine-tuning.
In modern policing, training of recruits has become a necessity. Police officers cannot be expected to perform the duties and responsibilities of a police officer without training.
There are two important reasons why police departments must comprehensively train police recruits. First, Title 42 of the United States Code, Section 1983, provides citizens with an avenue of redress for violating constitutional rights, as addressed in the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution. Police officers who violate Section 1983 can be prosecuted in federal courts by the federal government. Not only is it likely that one will be terminated from employment for violating this law, police officers have also been incarcerated for violating the constitutional rights of citizens. Second, police chiefs are held accountable for the training or lack of training police officers receive. Police chiefs, police departments, and municipalities have been sued in civil courts by citizens for the harms caused by poor training of police officers, causing those departments and municipalities to pay out significant sums of tax dollars to the individuals who suffered the harm.
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