Becoming a Police Officer: Video Exams, Essay Exams and Police Training (page 3)
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.
Most states have mandated that police officers receive training. The hours required for police recruit training vary from state to state. Generally, states require a minimum of 12 weeks of recruit police training. To assist smaller police departments, a few states allow very small police departments to hire probationary law enforcement officers, but the states require that these probationary officers successfully pass the training provided by the police academy within the first year of being hired.
Generally, medium-sized and large cities require that police recruits receive police recruit training prior to working as police officers. In addition, it is not unusual for these departments to require more training than small departments. Generally, larger departments have training requirements ranging from 22 weeks to about 18 months. Once recruit training school has been competed police recruits then have several months of field training. Field training refers to working under the supervision of a senior police officer.
Police recruit training subjects are taught at police academies. The hours for the training courses vary depending on the time frame of the training facility.
A list of commonly taught courses is as follows:
- United States Constitution and Bill of Rights
- State Criminal Laws
- Testifying in Court
- State and Federal Criminal Procedures
- Laws of Arrest, Search and Seizure
- Juvenile Code and Procedures
- Alcohol Beverage Control Laws
- Traffic Code
- Laws of Evidence
- Civil and Criminal Liability of Police
- Use of Force-Legal Aspects
- Civil Process
- Legal Guidelines in Interrogation
Police Patrol Procedures
- Introduction to Patrol
- Crowd Control/Chemical Agents
- Officer Survival
- Mechanics of Arrest
- Criminal Justice Information System
- DUI Recognition and Apprehension
- Vehicle Stops
- Building Searches
- Crimes in Progress Calls
- Hazardous Material Awareness Level
- Handcuffing and Search Techniques
- Occupational Protection Usage and Environment
Police Investigation Procedures
- Collecting, Recording and Protecting Physical Evidence
- Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs
- Laboratory Services and Polygraphy
- Techniques of Interviews, Admissions and Statements
- Accident Investigation
- Arson Investigation
- Developing Informants
- Bomb Calls, Threats and Investigations
- Crimes against Persons
- Sex Crimes
- Hostage Situations
- Death Investigations
- Hate-bias Crimes
- Physical and Sexual Abuse of Children
- Crimes against Property
- Credit Card Fraud
- Checks and Frauds
- Interpersonal Communications
- Communication Process
- Cultural Awareness
- Police Professionalism
- Crisis Situations
- Domestic Violence
- Crisis Intervention
- Abnormal Behavior
- Police-Community Relations
- Crime Prevention
- Community and PR
- Report Writing
- Defensive Tactics
- Emergency Vehicle Operations
- Practical Problems in Felony Stops
- Practical Problems in Criminal Investigations
- Moot Court
- Practical Problems in Officer Survival
- Practical Problems in Crisis Intervention
- Physical Training
- Basic First Aid
- Infectious Diseases
Police recruits are expected to successfully pass all course work with a minimum score of 70 percent. Most academies limit the opportunities for recruits to repeat failed exams over any of the required areas of study. Thus, the time spent at police academies is intended to be a time of intense focus and will require all recruits to prove their ability to learn the standards for carrying out the duties of policing both quickly and well.
Conduct and Behavior
Police recruits are expected to conduct themselves in a highly professional manner and to avoid problems with the law and the general public. Recruits can be dismissed from the academy for illegal, unethical or inappropriate behavior. Additionally, recruits will be expected to avoid any actions that create even the appearance of impropriety. By adhering to these rigorous educational and behavioral standards, police recruits grow to understand the high expectations that the public places upon its law enforcement officers.
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