Updated: July 3rd, 2006 12:40 PM EDT

Los Angeles Times

Decked out in his new uniform blues, David Gamero represents one important victory for the Los Angeles Police Department. He’s a successful LAPD recruit.

Gamero, 34, was recently persuaded to leave the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to join the LAPD, and he was part of a graduating class of 39 officers last month.

The officer was drawn by a $4,000 bump in salary and the opportunity to trade working in the county jails for driving a patrol car with a partner through the streets of South Los Angeles.

“That’s why 99% of people join the police, to get out on the street,” he said.

As Los Angeles tries to add 1,000 officers in five years to the smallest big-city police department in the nation, it has found there haven’t been enough David Gameros to go around.

The LAPD and police departments around the country are engaged in an intense competition over an increasingly limited pool of suitable people interested in becoming cops.

In Los Angeles, the department is fortifying its recruitment efforts in its drive to beat out other departments and attract the elusive recruit. The department has increased its full-time recruitment team from two to 12. It is offering a $1,000 cash reward to any employee who brings in a successful recruit. And recruiters are hitting the college job-placement circuits.

“We are going to make this happen,” said William Scott DeYoung, chief of police recruiting for the personnel department. “There is a lot of cachet not only to the LAPD, but also the city.”

Several factors have combined to leave police departments hard-pressed to fill their ranks. They include mass retirements by the baby boomer generation, a strong economy providing better-paying jobs in the private sector and a military that is bulked up and repeatedly extending the service commitments of soldiers who might otherwise become police officers, according to Jason Abend, executive director of the National Law Enforcement Recruiters Assn.

Everybody’s feeling the pinch: New York City is struggling to hire 3,300 officers this year, Abend said. Chicago, which used to have a waiting list of applicants, now must scramble to keep recruits in the pipeline.

And, in California, law enforcement agencies are facing a collective 8,500 vacancies, according to Bob Stesak of the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. Five years ago, the 39 police academies in the state were turning out 4,500 new officers annually; this year they are expected to graduate fewer than 3,000.

“It’s incredibly competitive,” said Margaret Whelan, personnel director for the city of Los Angeles. “Everybody is hiring. Everybody is drawing from the same pool.”

With fewer candidates available for a greater number of police jobs, law enforcement agencies throughout the country are having to take unusual steps — from offering fat signing bonuses to airing seductive TV commercials in other cities — to gain a competitive edge and keep their ranks staffed.

Los Angeles — where the City Council is considering expanding the bounty offer of $1,000 to include any nonprofit agency that brings in a recruit — faces some special hurdles. These include high housing costs and lingering fallout from controversies such as the Rampart Division police corruption scandal. Also, the city has found it particularly difficult to attract African American recruits because of long-standing views among some minorities, particularly blacks, that the department is hostile to them.

Recruits from people leaving the military — who once made up 30% of the LAPD’s new hires — have dwindled to 10% or less. And the department still struggles to keep its officers from jumping to other agencies. Although the LAPD has lured 13 from other departments this year, it has lost 18 to law enforcement organizations offering better pay, newer equipment and less stressful working conditions, LAPD officials said.

Years of tight budgets have left Los Angeles as the most under-policed big city in the nation. The LAPD fields one officer for every 411 residents, compared with New York City, which has one officer per 207 residents, and Chicago, with one officer for every 210 residents.

The Los Angeles Police Department fell 323 officers short of its expansion plans for the fiscal year that ended Friday. The police force was supposed to grow during the last year by 370 officers, to a total of 9,611.

The LAPD has 315 recruits in the Police Academy who will be graduating during the next seven months. At that rate, and taking attrition into account, the LAPD could fall more than 100 short of the 650 new officers budgeted, although recruiters are intent on preventing that.

Those who do make it into the Police Academy are in for a seven-month regimen that is physically and mentally grueling. They face college-level classes and an intense physical fitness program, driving lessons and weapons drills that test their stamina and precision performance under pressure.

“It’s very challenging, physically, mentally, academically,” said Officer Leticia Ruiz, who graduated in March. “It pushed us to do our best.”

Recruits have to run, climb over walls and perform pull-ups, push-ups and sit-ups. Plus, they have to do it all quickly — a prelude to the kind of rigors they will face on the streets. Some recruits drop out under the pressure, while others suffer injuries that put their training on hold while they recover, said recruitment chief DeYoung.

The class that finished in April started with 47 recruits, but only 34 graduated, DeYoung said. “Some people discover they are just not ready for that kind of physical regimen. Others realize ‘Oh, I might not want to shoot people,’ ” he said.

Ruiz has wanted to be a police officer since high school, drawn by the excitement and the chance to help people. “It’s not repetitive,” she said. “Every day is different.”

She thought a big-city department would offer her plenty of opportunities for advancement and special assignments.

“I don’t like small departments. You are limited in what you can do,” she said. The Sheriff’s Department was not attractive because of the years of jail work required of new deputies, she said.

Aiming to keep the academy operating at full strength, LAPD recruiters are bolstering their own ranks and intend to keep in close contact with 60 area colleges to cultivate new officers. The advertising budget for police recruitment has been increased from $1.5 million to $3.5 million.

But other agencies have boosted their efforts too.

The Sheriff’s Department, which hopes to hire 1,000 new deputies this year, has increased its starting pay by 13.5%, according to Sgt. Val Rosario.

The private firm PolicePay.Net lists the LAPD as the 22nd-best law enforcement agency among the 200 largest in the nation in terms of salary and benefits — although 17 other California police agencies provide better compensation packages.

The LAPD and other agencies, including the San Diego Police Department and Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, pay employees bonuses to bring in new recruits. The San Diego Sheriff’s Department, which wants to hire 300 deputies this year, has even upped the ante, offering bonuses up to $5,000 to police officers who transfer to the department.

To expand the pool of potential officers, the LAPD has taken several steps over the years, including raising the maximum age for recruits and forgiving some drug use if it was a one-time incident far in the past. Nonetheless, only 11% of the people who apply to become Los Angeles police officers make it through the tough battery of tests and background checks.

That means the department has to recruit nearly 6,000 applicants for screening to net 650 new officers. Yet the number of people taking the tests has plummeted from 12,714 in 2000 to 5,545 last year.

Police Chief William J. Bratton believes the expanded budget and staffing for police recruiting will turn things around.

“There is, reflecting the mayor’s prioritization of hiring a thousand more officers, a lot more attention and resources being put into it,” Bratton said.

But the competition for recruits is a nationwide phenomenon. New York City, Honolulu, Phoenix and other cities have sent police recruiters to Southern California within the last year.

Phoenix, which wants to hire 372 officers this year, preceded its recruiters with a cable TV spot in Los Angeles. Recruiters also handed out fliers contrasting their city’s home prices with those in Los Angeles County. The Phoenix recruitment foray, which included visits to Cal State L.A. and Cal State Long Beach, drew more than 300 applicants, several of whom were hired, according to that city’s Police Department.

The LAPD and the county Sheriff’s Department are also trying their luck in other cities.

Teams of recruiters from both agencies will head to Chicago on July 15 for the national Gay Games, which both agencies are co-sponsoring, to scout for potential officers.

Pat Camden, a deputy director for the Chicago Police Department, said he is not worried that his L.A. counterparts will make much of a dent in the pool of candidates available to protect and serve the Second City: He doesn’t anticipate many people from Illinois being willing to pay twice or three times as much for a house in Southern California.

“The only problem is,” Camden said, “you have to live out there.”

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It looks like all of of my references have been contacted. Not by phone, but rather by form letters with questionnaire attached. The questionnaire is basically a two page form (single page, double sided) asking for basic background and personality information about me. Most of the second page of the form is inapplicable to most of my references, as it asks about my work performance and only applies to those references who have worked with me in the past.

The funniest question on the questionnaire, in my opinion, was, “Describe the candidates friends and associates.” The answer choices are, “Law Abiding,” “Criminal,” “Questionable” and “Unknown.” I laughed my ass off when I saw that one.

All of my references should have sent their questionnaires back to the City of Los Angeles, or will be doing so in the next day or two.

Recruiting challenges force department to reach far afield for officers

BY JOSH KLEINBAUM, Staff Writer, LA Daily News

Like most kids, Munish Bharadwaja played cops and robbers with friends, watched TV shows featuring police officers and thought law enforcement was just one of those cool jobs.

Then reality set in.

Bharadwaja, who was born in India and grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from high school and went to the University of California, Irvine. He considered graduate school but decided to enter the business world instead and worked for three telecommunications companies over the next decade.

He was good at it and was named CEO last year of a company that sold cell-phone accessories. But he never forgot about his childhood dream.

On Friday, Bharadwaja graduated from the LAPD’s Police Academy. And today, he will trade his suit and tie for a badge and gun when he reports for duty as a patrol officer in the Harbor Division.

“For a lot of people, change is something they don’t look forward to,” Bharadwaja said. “I decided, at 34, it was time. It was either do it now, or I’d never do it.

“I didn’t want to put off my dreams for the rest of my life.”

In an ongoing recruiting battle that is becoming more and more challenging, the LAPD is looking for people just like Bharadwaja – those willing to give up promising careers in other fields to wear the uniform.

The LAPD has the money to recruit 1,000 additional police officers, but is facing stiff competition from other agencies and the military.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many cities have increased funding for their police forces and most departments – including those in communities around Los Angeles – are hiring.

Some who would typically apply for a police job are going to the military instead, and extended service requirements because of the Iraq war have cut off a usually reliable source of recruits.

In the fiscal year of 2002-03, 9,397 people applied to be LAPD officers, and 691 were hired. In fiscal 2004-05, only 5,545 applied, and 381 were hired.

This year, not a single Police Academy class has reached its 60-person maximum. Three classes had fewer than 40 recruits. Only 25 officers graduated in Bharadwaja’s class.

“I can’t think of an agency that’s not hiring,” said LAPD Cmdr. Kenny Garner, head of the department’s Personnel Division. “Everybody’s looking for law enforcement-type people, and there’s definitely a drain on the resources to get them in.”

With the heightened competition, the LAPD is looking to increase its applicant pool by finding people like Bharadwaja.

“A lot of people are in midlife crises,” LAPD Chief William Bratton said. “They’re looking for other things, new careers. We want them to think about the LAPD.”

The initiative – aided by the fact that the LAPD lifted the age cap in 2003 to settle a discrimination lawsuit – has already had some success.

D. Michele Vrolyks was a chemist for a pharmaceutical company before joining the LAPD. Now she’s a patrol officer in Wilshire Division.

Kristina Broadhurst has a medical degree from Harvard University and an MBA from UCLA, but she’s in the LAPD’s academy for reserve officers and is considering joining the force full time once she pays off student loans.

Officer James Miller went to Faith Baptist Bible College in Iowa and served as a minister for five years in the late 1990s. Abraham Schefres, a patrol officer in the Devonshire area, is a rabbi.

“If somebody told me 20 years ago I would be in the reserve academy and loving it as much as I do, I’d have said, `You’ve got to be kidding me,”‘ said Broadhurst, who works in the medical affairs group of a pharmaceutical company. “I never thought of it in my life.”

That is, until she became friends with some full-time LAPD officers.

“My understanding of policing was at the same level of what the general public perceives policing to be,” she said. “What I found is that the LAPD provides so many ways of serving the community, and there are so many opportunities in being part of the LAPD. The people I met in the LAPD are more dynamic than the people I work with on a day-to-day basis.”

Like Bharadwaja, Miller grew up thinking about becoming a police officer. But he came from a strong Baptist family in Redding and was also drawn to theology. When it came time to go to college, he opted for Bible school.

“I loved school, studying different subjects, taking Greek, Hebrew and theology courses,” Miller said. “But then I tried it out and realized it wasn’t really my personality, it didn’t really fit. I’m more of a one-on-one type person, not a one-on-group type person.”

He left the seminary in 2000 and joined the Marines, where he learned to fly fighter jets. During the Battle of Fallujah in 2004, Miller coordinated airstrikes and medevacs from the ground for American forces.

When he was discharged from the Marines in February 2005, he immediately applied for the LAPD. He’s been a patrol officer in Newton Division for two months.

His background as a minister “helps me have a different perspective and understanding of people I’m dealing with than other police officers do,” he said. “Anything that anyone’s done in their past is going to help them as a police officer. If you’ve worked at McDonald’s, it would help you as a police officer.”

The LAPD continues to search for officers in unusual places.

In July, the department will be a sponsor at the Gay Games in Chicago and will give potential recruits the opportunity to take an entrance exam.

Sometime this summer, recruiters plan to go to Detroit to talk to workers laid off from the auto industry. The department’s layoff coordinator keeps tabs on other struggling industries that could provide a pool of potential officers.

“There’s a certain percentage of people who know that they want to be a police officer, and they’re coming to us,” Garner said. “But there are other individuals who could make good officers who don’t even know what law enforcement is. Part of our challenge is to bring the LAPD to them.”

This article was reprinted from the May 1, 2006 edition of the LA Daily News.

Eds: UPDATES thruout. The Mayor’s communications office can be reached at (213) 978-0741.

By ART MARROQUIN, City News Service

RESEDA (CNS) – Hoping to fulfill a campaign promise to expand the Los Angeles Police Department, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today proposed a hike in the city’s trash collection fees to hire more officers.

“It’s a bit of a controversial plan, but I think it makes common sense,” Villaraigosa told about 40 officers at the LAPD’s West Valley Division this afternoon. “We live in a world where people want more services but they don’t want to pay for them.”

Villaraigosa’s plan calls for phasing-in a $17 increase for trash-hauling fees over the next four years.

Every new dollar collected, he said, would go toward hiring more police.

Police Chief William Bratton said he welcomed the idea.

“Over the next several years, we will be opening several new police stations, including one here in the Valley. They have to be staffed and we need resources,” he said.

Los Angeles residents currently pay an $11 monthly equipment fee for their trash containers, in addition to vehicle purchases and maintenance costs.

If approved by the full City Council, the fee hike would only apply to the residents of single-family homes. Homeowners would start paying $18 each month for trash collection when the new fiscal year begins July 1. The fee would be increased by $4 in each of the following two years, then by $2 the next year, reaching a maximum of $28.

Apartment residents would not be affected by the fee hike because their rent includes trash collection.

The city currently subsidizes the overall cost of hauling trash at a cost of $315 million annually, according to the mayor’s office.

The $11 equipment fee currently paid by Los Angeles residents is lower than what residents from all but three of the 81 other cities in Los Angeles County pay for trash collection, according to a Department of Public Works study released in 2004.

The plan to hike trash fees comes after the council agreed last month to spend $3 million to $5 million more annually to divert 600 tons of the city’s 3,600-ton daily waste stream from Sunshine Canyon in Granada Hills to landfills in Riverside and Kings counties.

City Councilman Jack Weiss, head of the council’s Public Safety Committee, called the idea “the best and most fair plan I’ve ever seen to add cops to the LAPD.

“It is a fair plan because all it asks our homeowners to do is to pay a little more for services they’ve been receiving that have been subsidized by everyone else,” he said.

Villaraigosa said the fee hike is needed to pay for 1,000 new police officers as the city grapples with a $295 million deficit in its $6 billion annual budget.

“The fact is our city officers are outnumbered, and we remain the most under-policed big city in the United States of America,” the mayor said. “This plan changes that.”

Fewer people are signing up to join the LAPD, despite a variety of programs to seek new recruits — including a $2 million advertising campaign targeting women and minorities.

Villaraigosa said he was committed to finding officers to fill the positions. He is considering incentives, such as offering $1,000 bonuses for officers who refer recruits, and increasing Web-based hiring efforts.

The city allocated funding to hire 369 officers during the current fiscal year, but the LAPD expects to bring on only 270 to 280 new hires.

Retirement also poses a problem for the department, as 1,100 officers are expected to leave the department over the next four years.

To help bolster the ranks, the LAPD and city officials are considering whether to offer incentives such as a pension buy-out for officers wanting to transfer to Los Angeles and a home ownership program to help officers buy homes in the city.

“I understand full well the dangers they face on the streets every day, and it’s my priority to give them the resources they need to stay safe,” Villaraigosa said.

Additionally, the City Council is set to decide within weeks whether a deferred retirement program for LAPD officers should be extended for another five years to give the understaffed department more time to recruit officers.

Date: 04-12-2006 5:22 PM – Word Count: 726

Officer Recruitment

Eds: Bratton aide Mary Grady can be reached at (213) 485-3205.

By ART MARROQUIN, City News Service

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Los Angeles Police Department is aggressively seeking new recruits through a variety of programs, relaxed hiring practices and aggressive advertising, police Chief William Bratton said today.

“We’re hiring and we desperately need people to join up,” Bratton said during a news conference at the LAPD’s dispatch center.

The city allocated funding to hire 369 officers during the current fiscal year which ends June 30, but the LAPD expects to bring in only 270 to 280 new hires.

“Everybody’s hiring. We’re competing for a very small pool of candidates,” Bratton said. “We have very high standards to enter the department. The irony of it is that we finally have the funds to expand the size of the department, but we’re struggling.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has said he wants to hire more than 1,000 new officers before the end of his term.

In hopes of bolstering the force, LAPD officials relaxed the department’s stringent guidelines on hiring recruits with bad credit and those who openly admitted to past drug use.

Additionally, the city’s Personnel Department is spending $2 million in advertising during the current fiscal year to recruit more racial minorities and women as LAPD candidates.

Bratton said he also hopes to gather recruits from the Los Angeles Police Academy Magnet School Program, which was established at five high schools in 1996 to prepare about 1,185 students annually for careers in law enforcement.

The department currently allows more civilians to conduct administrative duties at police stations so that more officers can patrol the streets. But officials want to extend that opportunity to those with past law enforcement or military experience who are waiting on a background check and academy training to become an LAPD officer, according to Lt. Kenneth Garner, head of the LAPD’s Personnel Group.

Additionally, Councilman Greig Smith unveiled two proposals last month that he said would help the city attract qualified police officers and firefighters.

Smith wants to expand a home ownership program that helps officers and firefighters buy homes in Los Angeles, rather than in neighboring cities.

With the median home in Los Angeles around $575,000, some officers and firefighters cannot afford property in the city, and as a result, many public safety personnel live in suburbs such as Santa Clarita and Simi Valley, according to Smith, a reserve police officer.

Smith also wants the city to be able to buy out the pensions of officers and firefighters who want to transfer to Los Angeles from other jobs with other public safety agencies in California.

Police Retirements

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A City Council committee agreed today that a deferred retirement program for LAPD officers should be extended for another five years to give the understaffed department more time to recruit new officers.

The council’s Personnel Committee unanimously agreed to extend the LAPD’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, which provides better retirement packages for veteran officers who agree to postpone retirement.

Extending the DROP program for the LAPD’s commanders is also in the works, as negotiations are under way with the police union, according to Cmdr. Kenneth Garner, head of the department’s Personnel Group.

The LAPD is facing a dramatic departure of seasoned officers when DROP begins pushing them into mandatory retirement next year.

More than 1,600 police officers and city firefighters who previous signed up for the DROP program will be required to retire over the next five years, including fire Chief William Bamattre, Bratton said.

In the fiscal year that starts July 1, the LAPD will lose one deputy chief, four commanders, seven captains and 116 detectives, according to a report recently prepared by Bratton.

The DROP program, initiated in 2002, allows police officers and firefighters with at least 30 years of service to continue working at full salary and receive pension payments, which are put into holding accounts.

At the end of five years, the employee gets the five years worth of pension checks. The worker also benefits because his or her pension payment rate will have been boosted by five years of cost-of-living increases.

Police Hiring

March 24, 2006

Date: 03-24-2006 7:12 AM – Word Count: 625

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The LAPD will face a dramatic departure of seasoned officers when a deferred retirement program begins pushing them into mandatory retirement next year, it was reported today.

The deferred retirement program enacted four years ago was aimed at giving the department time to recruit more officers, but hiring has lagged behind expectations, in part due to budget problems, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Now, more than 1,600 officers and city firefighters will be required to retire over the next five years, and the police and fire departments will have to plug the vacancies.

“People will start bailing out this next fiscal year,” police Chief William Bratton told The Times. “We are starting to experience that trickle, but it will get to be a much more significant number in 2007 and 2008.”

Those required to retire include four of the department’s eight deputy police chiefs and 264 detectives, among them some of the department’s most seasoned investigators.

In the coming fiscal year starting July 1, the department will lose one deputy chief, four commanders, seven captains and 116 detectives, the newspaper reported.

At the fire department, those who must retire because of the Deferred Retirement Option Program, or DROP, include Chief William Bamattre, who will go in 2008.

Beyond the chief, the program poses less of a challenge to the fire department because that agency has little trouble attracting recruits.

But recruiting for the LAPD is much more difficult.

The DROP program was instituted in 2002 to sweeten the pot for workers who agreed then to postpone their departures to allow the LAPD a few years to grow significantly before so many employees retired. It was intended to last five
years.

“The whole purpose of DROP was to give the city a window of opportunity to recruit more people, which they haven’t done a real good job with,” said Bob Baker, president of the Police Protective League.

As Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa prepares his budget for the next fiscal year, he has to factor the loss of people into his plans to expand the departments. The fallout from the retirement program also could have political implications, The Times reported.

Villaraigosa was elected last year while promising to expand the police force by 1,000 officers during his first term.

To do that, he would have to expand the police force by an average of 250 officers per year. But the retirement program means that he also has to make up for hundreds of retirements before the police force can grow.

In a normal year, about 300 officers retire, but for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 238 others are facing mandatory departure.

That means Villaraigosa would have to hire 788 officers, slightly more than the capacity of the Police Academy, next year to make up for attrition and achieve his expansion goal. Recruits spend seven months at the academy.

Under deferred retirement, a police officer or firefighter who has at least 30 years of service can continue to work at full salary and receive pension payments, which are put into holding accounts.

At the end of five years, the employee gets the five years worth of pension checks. The worker also benefits because his or her pension payment rate will have been boosted by five years of cost-of-living increases.

The current city budget calls for the police force to reach 9,611 officers by July 1, still fewer than the department put on the streets at its peak eight years ago, when sworn ranks totaled 9,852. There now are 9,314 officers.

Bratton said he is working on the assumption that the retirement program will not be renewed, so he has begun grooming some mid-level command staff to take over for superiors.

CNS-03-24-2006 07:12

A couple of days after my polygraph (see last post), I reported to the Temple Building, bright and early, to take the Physical Abilities Test (PAT). It was a freaking joke. I wanted to laugh.

Before taking the PAT, we were put into groups of six. Each group then cycled through all of the three test events.

The first event is a sidestep exercise, which allegedly measures one’s coordination. You start on a center line. There is a line four feet to your left, and anther line four feet to your right. When the command is given, you must sidestep to the right line, then all the way over to the left. You must repeat this as many times as you can in ten seconds. All candidates must do this twice. An average of both attempts will be your final score.

After that is a cable pull to measure your strength. You are given some sort of contraption with two handles. You must place both your hands on the handles, hold it chest high and pull the contraption apart. Of course, you can’t pull the contraption apart, because it is all one piece of metal. It does, however, have some sort of sensor on it, which measures how much weight you are pulling. You get to do this three times. Your final score is the average of all three trials.

The last event on the agenda is a stationary bicycle ride, to measure your endurance. This, by far, is the most strenuous test. The stationary bike is set at a certain resistance. You’ve got to petal as fast as you can for two minutes. Your final score is the number of times petaled during that time. Although this was a little bit taxing, it wasn’t even enough to break a sweat.

After you finish all three events, my group was directed to wait outside of the building. About ten minutes later, a lady came out and gave us an index card with our names and an indication as to whether or not we passed the test. It was either a pass or a fail. None of us were given any scores. Nor were we even told what a passing score is.

I, of course, passed.

I’m back home now. I guess it’s a waiting game now. Hopefully they’ll assign a background investigator to my file soon. I’m eager to start. I may not write for a while. I hear these things (background investigations) take forever.

The Polygraph

March 1, 2006

If I were to summarize the polygraph with one word, that word would be “interrogation.” In my opinion, my polygrapher was trying to get me to admit to employment-disqualifying things even before the polygraph machinery was attached to my body.

A few nights ago, I reported to the historic Parker Center, located in downtown Los Angeles. There were four other candidates waiting to take the polygraph. At about 7:30 p.m. sharp, four polygraphers came through a door one by one to collect their assigned candidate. I was the last to be rounded up.

The first four polygraphers seemed to be quite unfriendly. I believe this was a part of their act, to create a feeling of nervousness in their candidates. Luckily, my polygrapher seemed pretty laid back.

I was taken into what appeared to be an interrogation room. The walls were windowless and covered with some sort of grey colored padding. There was a desk and a chair (with wheels) for the polygrapher, and two chairs for me. The first chair was a normal chair. I was directed to sit in this chair while the polygrapher went through some sort of pre-polygraph questioning.

The second chair faced one of the walls and had high arm rests. It had no wheels. I reckon this is to give whomever is being polygraphed a sense of being controlled, while the polygrapher sits in a chair with wheels, giving him/her an aura of being in control.

Firstly, I was asked as to how much I knew about the polygraph. My response was that I knew little to nothing about it. The polygrapher then went on to explain the apparatus: tubes are placed around the chest and abdomen to measure breathing patterns, a cuff placed around the upper arm to measure pulse and blood pressure, and clips placed on fingertips to measure prespiration.

According to my polygrapher, the body produces an uncontrollable physiological response when a person lies. Responses–both truthful and untruthful–would be measured by the polygraph. Before being connected to the device, I was told that I would be asked the exact same questions that I would be when connected to the machine.

I don’t remember every single question that was posed to me; however, I do remember a few: “Have you ever committed a hate crime?” “Have you ever stolen more than $400 from any employer?” “Would you lie to a loved one about something important?” “Would you forge important documents?” “Have you lied about your previous drug use?” “Have you committed any serious crimes?”

Before my polygrapher connected me to the device, when I was asked the aforementioned questions, I had the distinct impression that the polygrapher was trying to get me to admit to disqualifying answers. As I had nothing to hide, we moved on and I was wired to the machine.

The polygraph questions were asked repeatedly, in three separate sessions, between which there was a quick break. I was then unhooked from the polygraph and told to relax. My physiological reactions, which were recorded on a desktop PC by some sort of polygraph software, were printed out on a long sheet of paper using a color inkjet printer.

I was told that the results of the chart would be inspected by both my polygrapher and some sort of supervisor. I was left alone in the room for what seemed like half an hour. I had no watch, nor my mobile phone. Thus, I had no way of knowing how much time had transpired between the conclusion of my polygraph and when my polygrapher finally came back to my interrogation room.

When the polygrapher returned, I was told that I passed the polygraph. I felt as if a huge burden was lifted from my shoulders. Upon exiting the building, two Los Angeles Police officers (who were working as the building’s sentries) stopped me and struck up a conversation with me. “How’d you do?” one of them asked.

“I passed,” I said, with a sigh of relief.

They both smiled and congratulated me. They also told me that 75-percent of candidates who take the polygraph fail it. “What do you have next on your plate?” asked the other officer.

I told him that I was to take the Physical Abilities Test (PAT) in a couple of days.

“That’s easy,” he told me. “That fucking test is so easy that if you walked off of that elevator without breaking a sweat, you ought to be able to pass it.”

“Why is the physical test so easy?” I asked.

I was told that this was due to the number of women who have taken the PAT (back when it was much more difficult), failed and then sued the City of Los Angeles. Either because they failed the test or were injured.

We talked for another ten minutes or so, and then I left the building. I’ll tell you all about the PAT later.

Initial Background Interview

February 22, 2006

So I’m back in Los Angeles, for an Initial Background Interview and the Physical Abilities Test. I’m not quite sure why they scheduled these two events almost a week apart, but hell, this’ll be a great break from the cold winter weather back home.

Today, I spent approximately six hours at the Personnel Building (700 East Temple St). The first thing on the agenda was some sort of personality test. My group was taken to a room that resembled a classroom. We were given five test booklets and as many scantron sheets.

The first four test booklets were comprised of true/false or yes/no questions. Many of the questions seemed to be the same, only phrased differently. For instance, there was a question that read something like, “Sometimes I can’t control my anger.” A little bit later, I was faced with an all-too-similar question: “Sometimes I get so mad that I can’t think.” For anyone with common sense, it should be very obvious as to how to answer.

The last booklet was multiple choice. The questions were background history type of questions. They were very similar to the questions that would be asked at the later part of the day.

We were given two hours to finish the five booklets. I finished in less than an hour. There was a Starbucks several blocks away, so I walked on over for a cup of joe.

At the appointed time, I reported back for the second part of my day. My group was seated right outside of room B-22. We were given a stack of paperwork to fill out, which included a 176-question questionnaire called the PIQ (Pre-Investigative Questionnaire). It was basically dealt with background issues not covered by the Personal History Form (see previous post). A few of the things they want to know: Do you own a firearm? If so, what kind? Have you ever been arrested? What for? have you ever committed a hate crime? Have you ever used any illegal drugs? If you answer “yes” to any of the questions, you’ve got to write a paragraph explaining your answer.

While we were working on our questionnaires, a team of background investigators hovered over us, making sure we were completing them correctly. Every now and then, a candidate got chewed out for making a mistake. One by one, as we finished our quesionnaires, a background investigator took us to separate rooms to go over our paperwork.

The investigators, we were told, were mostly retired LAPD detectives. Be completely honest, the lead man said, because if we lied, we would surely be discovered.

I was one of the first to complete my paperwork, and was taken to a small room with two chairs and a table. There, an elderly man went over my PIQ and my PHF.

My impression of the entire event was that it was an initial interrogation, in which the investigators attempt to get candidates to confess to questionable background information. I’m not sure how many candidates are weeded out by the Initial Background Interview, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the people in my group were disqualified.

Before wrapping my interview, my investigator filled out a slip of paper and instructed me to take it upstairs in order to schedule a polygraph examination. This was completely unexpected, as I was not scheduled for a polygraph on this trip. I followed his instructions and scheduled my polygraph.

After being fingerprinted, I was done for the day.

A Stack of Paperwork

January 4, 2006

Filling out the Personal History Form (PHF) is no joke. The form asks you to list every job you’ve ever had, and every domicile at which you resided since age 15. I was overwhelmed, so I called the folks at the City of Los Angeles for guidance. A friendly voice at the other end of the line told me that I should only be concerned with work history going back seven years, and residence history going back ten years.

As an added precaution, I did a background investigation on myself (online, around $40) and checked my credit report (you can do this for free). This helped me out quite a bit in filling out the PHF. Although the City of LA sent me a yellow-colored PHF to fill out, I found it to be much easier to download the PDF version of the same document from their website and type in my information. After spending roughly 20 hours on my PHF (a few hours here, a few hours there), it is now ready for submission.

I would recommend anyone going through this type of process to get an early start on things. Among other things, they want copies of your birth certificate, social security card and high school transcripts. It would behoove you to order these items early (if you’ve lost your Social Security card, for example, it will take the Social Security Administration two weeks to get you a new one), so you don’t look like a jackass when you show up for your initial background interview.

Now, it’s time for me to start thinking about what to pack. I’ll need my sharpest suit and shoes and a set of gym clothes and running shoes.