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.

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.

Aced the PQE

December 20, 2005

I received a fairly thick stack of papers from the City of Los Angeles. On the top of this stack of paperwork was a letter, which said:

Law Enforcement Employment – Personal Qualifications Essay

You have passed the Personal Qualifications Essay (PQE) portion of the examination and were placed on the hiring list according to your score of 90 (this score includes military credit if you submitted proof of Honorable Discharge).

We schedule people from this list for further processing according to score and hiring needs. If you have not already been scheduled for further processing, you will be notified should your score qualify you in the future.

The next sheet of paper had appointment dates and times for my next two steps in the application process: an initial background interview, and the Physical Abilities Test (PAT).

There were several forms to be filled out, including one 22-page monster called the Personal History Form for Public Safety Officer Applicants (PHF). They want to know where you’ve lived, where you’ve worked, how much money you make, how much money you owe, who your friends are, what kind of drugs you’ve used and so on.

It would seem that I will be in sunny Los Angeles again soon. Until then, I have my hands full with forms.

The Personal Qualifications Essay (PQE) was basically three essay questions, which needed to be completed within 90 minutes. I was one of about 15 or so people who showed up to the testing center to take the PQE only. Most of the applicants in attendance were there to take both the multiple-choice written test, as well as the PQE.

Back when I first went to Los Angeles to take the written test, the application process was slightly different. After the written test, there used to be some sort of interview, to be conducted (I believe) by an off-duty LAPD detective. Since the mayor is intent on hiring over a thousand new officers by the end of fiscal year 2007, the city felt that it could not afford to pay those detectives overtime for conducting those interviews. At least that’s what I’ve heard through the grape vine.

I was one of the first ones to arrive at the testing site. A burly LA police officer walked by and spoke to a few of us briefly. He recalled the time when he, too, was an applicant. He told us, “The only advice I can give you is to use common sense.

Judging from the reactions of many of my fellow test takers, the officer’s advice seemed to go right over their heads. I took his advice to mean, “Use common sense when answering any and all questions they (those affiliated with the LAPD testing procedures) throw your way.”

When it was time to sit down and take the PQE, I did just that. The last essay question was something along the lines of, “Describe something that you have done that you regret. What did you learn from your experience? How have you changed since then?”

While I will not discuss my answer here, suffice it to say that I didn’t discuss the time, as a 19-year-old punk kid, where I consumed a fifth of vodka, beat the crap out of some guy whom I felt “disrespected” me at a nightclub and proceeded to drive into the horizon drunk and a skunk.

It seemed like the common sense thing to do was to not write about such a thing. In any case, we’ll see in about two or three weeks whether my prose was good enough for the City of Los Angeles.

Written Test Results

October 15, 2005

I have just received a letter from the City of Los Angeles’ Public Safety Bureau, informing me that I have passed the written test:

We are pleased to inform you that you have passed the Multiple-choice [sic] portion of the examination for entry-level law enforcement employment.

Los Angeles Police Officer candidates are usually scheduled for a Police Officer [sic] interview at the time of the written test. If you need to reschedule your interview or have any questions, please contact us at the number below.

I called “the number below,” to see when I can go in for my police officer interview. After all, I have to plan another trip to Los Angeles to do this. I learned that these interviews are no longer being conducted. (It would seem that the application process is ever-evolving in the light of the fact that LA is trying to hire 1,400 new cops by the end of fiscal year 2007.) In lieu of an interview, the next phase to my application process is to take the Personal Qualifications Essay (PQE). No appointment is required. I simply show up and write a few essays.

Out of town applicants used to be lured by LAPD recruitment with expedited testing, which means that several portions of the application process can be knocked out in a week. Recently, this expedited testing option has been extended to everyone. Unfortunately, I am not eligible for this option.

The reason I am no eligible for expedited testing is that on my Preliminary Background Application (or PBA, which I filled out when I took the written test), I admitted to marijuana use. That was almost 20 years ago. Moreover, I had a little skirmish with the law as a young adult. Nothing serious, as I have never been convicted of a crime. Nevertheless, these things are weighing against me at the moment. It looks like passing each phase of the application process will mean another trip to LA.

For now, my next mission is to get to LA and take the PQE.

First Step

October 5, 2005

After looking over the Los Angeles Police Department recruitment website several times, and thinking about the direction of my future, I decided to give it a shot. At the time of this writing, the Los Angeles Police Department offers its written test six times a week, Monday through Saturday. I went to see my travel agent, booked my flight and flew out to sunny Los Angeles.

I took the written test at the Personnel Building, at 700 E. Temple St., near the downtown area. There must have been roughly 30 other applicants with me. There were a handful of women among us, and a few minorities. There seemed to be representation from all walks of life.

All in all, the written test was not all that difficult. It was comprised of two parts: multiple-choice, grammar-related questions, followed by an essay question. We were given 60 minutes to complete the first part of the exam, and another 30 minutes to complete our essays. Although I don’t want to say as an absolute fact that I did well on the test, I will say that it seemed rather easy.

One memorable thing about the test was the number of applicants who seemed thoroughly confused by the test questions. There were a few people, it appeared, who could not finish the test in the time allotted. I wonder how many people will be weeded out of the application process simply by failing this test?