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  • Questions to ask potential department

    I’ve been requesting ride alongs with departments I want to apply with. Some offer them and some don’t. I feel like they give me a chance to see how each department works, how the officers get along and I get a good feel for the overall atmosphere of the department. One department I’d like to apply with doesn’t offer a ride along, but the captain has offered to sit down with me and answer any questions I have. What questions can you recommend that will offer me the most insight into how that department works? I want to make sure I’m a good fit for the department, but also that the department is a good fit for me.
    My first choice department offers everything I want. They are family oriented (I’m married with 5 kids), camaraderie is strong there, there is growth potential as the department and city will grow a lot in the coming years and I got along well with everyone there during my two rides. I’m hoping things pan out there, but I need to have some other irons in the fire as well. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.


  • #2
    "What's something that makes you proud to work for this department?"

    I feel the answer provides great insight into the general morale of an organization, exhibits if it has clearly defined goals or not, and more.

    Comment


    • #3
      You should also ask about pay, vacation, benefits, OT, and uniforms.

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks for the question suggestions. I’ll be making a note of everything I want to ask before I meet with the department. Until then I’ll be focusing on my oral board with my 1st choice department I have on Tuesday. I was notified today about the oral board.

        Comment


        • #5
          Here’s a number of things you might ask. In reality, these are questions a new manager would ask and not a newbie cop. But if you stop and think about them, the answers to them will give you an idea as to what life will be for cops at the bottom of the food chain.

          How is the department’s relationship with the community? Is there a lot of community support? Generally speaking, is the community pro-police, neutral, anti-police?

          How is the department’s relationship with the city council? Generally speaking, is the council pro-police, neutral, anti-police?

          What does the department budget look like? Do pay and benefits compare with neighboring agencies? Are equipment and vehicles up to date, periodically maintained and replaced in a timely manner or does the department have to beg, borrow and steal to keep things running? Do you anticipate budget cuts in the future. Is the city’s revenue source (usually taxes which fund departments) considered to be strong or unpredictable in the future?

          What is morale like within the agency? Is there strong teamwork between the officers or backstabbing? Is there good communication between line officers, supervisors and management, so everyone is kept up to date (within reason) as to happenings, both good and bad within the department. What has the department turnover been in the past few years.

          When officers see thing they think could be changed or implemented to improve the department, is management open to those recommendations?

          Do you have quotas, official or unofficial? If so, how to they work? More than likely they will tell you they do not have quotas but the reality is, you cannot drive a police car around day after day and not make arrests or issue citations because you feel doing so victimizes disenfranchised members of society.

          How does shift and day off bidding work?

          What are your shift schedules 5/8, 4/10, 3/12?

          I’m sure others will chime in with more.
          Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by L-1 View Post
            Here’s a number of things you might ask. In reality, these are questions a new manager would ask and not a newbie cop. But if you stop and think about them, the answers to them will give you an idea as to what life will be for cops at the bottom of the food chain.

            How is the department’s relationship with the community? Is there a lot of community support? Generally speaking, is the community pro-police, neutral, anti-police?

            How is the department’s relationship with the city council? Generally speaking, is the council pro-police, neutral, anti-police?

            What does the department budget look like? Do pay and benefits compare with neighboring agencies? Are equipment and vehicles up to date, periodically maintained and replaced in a timely manner or does the department have to beg, borrow and steal to keep things running? Do you anticipate budget cuts in the future. Is the city’s revenue source (usually taxes which fund departments) considered to be strong or unpredictable in the future?

            What is morale like within the agency? Is there strong teamwork between the officers or backstabbing? Is there good communication between line officers, supervisors and management, so everyone is kept up to date (within reason) as to happenings, both good and bad within the department. What has the department turnover been in the past few years.

            When officers see thing they think could be changed or implemented to improve the department, is management open to those recommendations?

            Do you have quotas, official or unofficial? If so, how to they work? More than likely they will tell you they do not have quotas but the reality is, you cannot drive a police car around day after day and not make arrests or issue citations because you feel doing so victimizes disenfranchised members of society.

            How does shift and day off bidding work?

            What are your shift schedules 5/8, 4/10, 3/12?

            I’m sure others will chime in with more.
            Those are nice questions...if you could actually get a straight answer for most of them. But, hey, let's be honest...no police administrator or hiring authority is going to tell a potential candidate that their department is a dumpster fire where the morale is in the crapper, the administration will ignore everything you say, and you'll be working with a bunch of cops who act like gossiping, backstabbing junior high girls (assuming the admin/hiring manager isn't so disconnected that they don't know it in the first place).
            "He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
            -Friedrich Nietzsche

            Comment


            • L-1
              L-1 commented
              Editing a comment
              Yeah, good point. OTOH, the admin might think if the guy is smart enough to ask these questions, we might want him. I don't know.

            • L-1
              L-1 commented
              Editing a comment
              On second thought, go find the union rep and ask him the questions instead.

            • Aidokea
              Aidokea commented
              Editing a comment
              I like that answer better...

          • #7
            Off duty "details".

            Private security after hours, we call them details.

            Comment


            • #8
              I would do my research on the department, city etc using the internet and social media. In interviews I answer their questions and if I ask any questions of them, it's about the pay and shifts.

              Some places may be impressed with those questions and others may interpret them negatively. JFYI any questions you ask that Captain, he's going to give you the official policy answer and won't say anything negative about the department.


              Comment


              • #9
                When I saw the title of this thread, this is what came to mind:
                 

                Comment


                • #10
                  Ask how quickly they accrue sick leave and when you can start taking it. Also ask if they have light duty, and how long you can be on light duty.

                  Ask about the FTO program, and what in-service training looks like.

                  Comment


                  • AirborneJones
                    AirborneJones commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Why would I ask about sick time and light duty? I personally like to know everything about everything, but couldn’t that seem like I’m planning on light duty or being sick often?

                  • TedMosby
                    TedMosby commented
                    Editing a comment
                    /S dude AirborneJones

                • #11
                  What is top pay? What is the process to get to top pay? How long does it take to get to top pay? What is the retirement system? Is there retiree health insurance? Is there a 401k or 457?

                  I also suggest researching the retirement system. Is the system actually funded? Is there disability coverage? These may be questions to ask the department, or things to research through other channels.

                  What equipment is provided? What will you have to pay for?

                  Comment


                  • #12
                    Originally posted by just joe View Post
                    Ask how quickly they accrue sick leave and when you can start taking it. Also ask if they have light duty, and how long you can be on light duty.
                    I can't imagine wanting to hire anyone leading with that question,.......

                    Comment


                    • Iowa #1603
                      Iowa #1603 commented
                      Editing a comment
                      One should remember that ANYTHING you say, do, or resemble COULD be used as a tie breaker at hiring decision time.

                      I have said before that one of my old sheriff's used to come to PT testing and/or written testing in sweats, tshirt, ball cap pulled down over his sunglasses to OBSERVE the candidates.

                      What he saw at those times often had bearing on his final decision on who was going to represent him .

                  • #13
                    Idle chatter with strangers could sink your application,......agreed.

                    Comment


                    • #14
                      Yup- what is the purpose of these "questions"? Are you simply seeking questions to ask that will make you seem like a better candidate, or is there something that you actually want to know?

                      The purpose of the oral board is for them to interview you, not the other way around...

                      Comment


                      • #15
                        Originally posted by Aidokea View Post
                        The purpose of the oral board is for them to interview you, not the other way around...
                        I don't necessarily agree with that. Any good candidate will ask (well-phrased) probing questions to assess the internal culture of a department...the candidate should be interviewing the department for fit as much as the department is interviewing the candidate.

                        As an experienced LEO and police candidate, I've asked "probing" or interview-like questions during interviews ("What are you really proud of about the department?" "If you could change one thing about the department, what would it be?"). The first one is a safe question...hiring authorities love to brag up their departments and it can be revealing about the internal culture if you look past the surface of the answer. The second is much riskier, but potentially more revealing...it's a dangerous game asking that one, but with a chance of a high reward.

                        Fair warning, not all hiring authorities/interviewers/administrators like candidates to ask questions. There is a LARGE segment of upper-echelon LE that expects officers, particularly new hire officers, to be completely subservient and submissive to those above them. And someone who is interviewing with a department is expected to have already done their homework...things like pay rates, crime rates, department mission, etc are generally readily available through simple internet research.
                        Last edited by Bing_Oh; 07-31-2021, 10:07 PM.
                        "He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
                        -Friedrich Nietzsche

                        Comment


                        • AirborneJones
                          AirborneJones commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I agree that a candidate should ask probing questions. At my oral board a couple weeks ago I asked some very probing questions at the end and they seemed to really appreciate them. Personally, I want to make sure I’m a good fit just as much as they do. The reason I started this post was to come up with good questions that could help me determine the culture and general atmosphere of a department. I can easily find pay, insurance, retirement and other similar info on their website. What I can’t find is how leadership treats their employees, leadership styles, how close knit are the officers and so on.

                          If I apply somewhere and they don’t like me asking questions then I know that’s not a good fit for me. I don’t want to work for a department that views their officers as being subservient or lesser. I completely understand that there is a rank structure or chain of command. I was 9 years military, but that doesn’t mean that you treat the lower ranking or new officers like trash. I want to work for a department that works as a team and has strong leadership that can lead with a servant leadership mindset versus the leadership style Bing_Oh describes.

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