Got the chops to be a cop?


Becoming a police officer is a process, and those who are thinking about embarking on the journey should know what they are getting into.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank spent 15 years as an officer on the force before becoming the capital city’s police chief.

He won the 2011 award for “Utahn of the Year” from The Salt Lake Tribune, and has been trying to take positive steps with the police department since he became chief.

Burbank has said that, “Police officers jobs are to prevent crimes from occurring.” The question is how does one get to be in position to even become a cop?

It all starts with tests and training.

The National Police Officer Selection Test (NPOST) is the first test that prospective police officers must take. Reading comprehension, vocabulary, memory recall and math are a few of the test areas.

A high score in the NPOST gives police departments an indicator of the subject’s potential because the test asks questions that are relevant to skills a police cadet will learn at the academy.

High test scores give the police department an incentive on taking them in for more training or sending them to the Police Academy.

A series of physical examinations comes next. Potential employers can determine what kind of shape the applicants are in.

These tests include how many push-ups and sit-ups an applicant can do in one minute, as well as how fast he or she can run a mile.

If the subject passes these tests with high scores, a background check comes next. Tests in this section include a lie detector exam, a drug screening and a psychiatric evaluation.

All in all, the entire police officer (training regimen) can take up to six months. Those who are not ready for such a strenuous experience are likely to fail early in the process.

Former University of Utah student Jesse Wood, 21, has been thinking about becoming a police officer since he was in high school.

“I was never set on what I wanted to do as far as a career or life plan, but I can always remember considering becoming a cop,” Wood said.

A profession that requires its employees to have a gun strapped to a hip for the entire day is anything but a safe job, but Wood isn’t thinking of future employment in terms of its safety factor.

“Is the job potentially dangerous? It absolutely is. But walking across the street is dangerous in its own way. It’s really not about if I can get killed, but more about if I can make a positive impact on society.”

The opportunity to change the world around him drives Wood toward becoming a police officer.

Yuki Leavitt, on the other hand, has considered being a cop because of the heroism that comes with the title. Leavitt’s catch is that he doesn’t know if being a hero is worth hours and hours of work it takes to get there.

“I’m a college student and as much as I’d like what comes along with the title of becoming a police officer, I just don’t know if I have the time,” the 21-year-old Leavitt said.

“Becoming a cop is not as simple as filling out an application and handing it in to see if you got the job. There is test after test. I have plenty of tests I’m taking in school right now.”

Burbank has been close and personal with danger multiple times in his career. While he says that most officers will never be put in a situation where they must use their firearm, he also knows that moment may always present itself.

“I’ve never shot anybody,” Burbank said, “I’ve been involved in 13 separate incidents where I could have used deadly force by the statute and been OK under the law, but have not.”

Burbank believes there might even be a danger in using a firearm in the line of duty.

“The majority of law enforcement officers that discharge their gun in the line of duty don’t last beyond five years after doing so. They change their mind and they leave the profession.”

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