Derry Police Chief Ed Garone has seen a lot in his more than 40 years with the town, and some statistics trouble him, including a national shortage of police officers. “In Los Angeles, the LAPD has vacancies up 600 percent over five years ago,” Garone said.
The Derry Police Department will offer its exam for officer candidates Jan. 9, 2016. Garone and Capt. George Feole, who administers the program, hope they will have enough applicants to winnow through to find Derry’s next new officers. But they are not taking anything for granted.
Life as a sworn officer is no longer the attractive career it was when Garone and Feole started out. “Young men and women no longer look at this as an admirable profession,” Garone said.
Besides the obvious benefit of being able to help people, police work used to appeal because of job satisfaction, job security and “reasonable retirement benefits,” according to Garone.
All that’s changed over the latter part of his career. For one thing, the public perception of police is different now, especially over the past year, with police shootings of civilians taking over the national media.
But today’s young people also want more, or maybe less, from their career, Garone added. Both male and female Millennials don’t want to work nights, holidays or weekends, and they don’t always want to put their lives on the line. “There are other jobs, 9 to 5 jobs, that they can take instead,” Garone said, as they pursue that elusive “quality of life.”
In the last test, Feole said, between 35 and 40 people applied. Out of that, “We found one acceptable candidate.” That person will go to the Police Academy Jan. 4, he said.
The time before that he got 10 applications, gave the test, and again culled one suitable candidate. They offered a job to that person and he declined, Garone said.
Garone said if they give the test to 100 applicants, they may find six or seven who would make good Derry police officers. At the most 10, Feole added.
Feole sketched the steps toward a career with Derry police. First, the person must apply to take the test. A written test is given in the morning, and those who pass that will take a physical agility test in the afternoon. “By the time they take the physical test, we’ve got about half of when we started,” Feole observed.
The third step is an oral interview. “We lose 25 to 40 percent here,” Feole said.
When they’ve found an eligible candidate, that person is subjected to a background investigation including a polygraph, medical exam, psychological exam and background check. After that, he said, “I may have one person to recommend to the chief.”
When Feole took the test, it was not unusual to get 250 to 300 applicants, he observed.
Feole furnished these statistics for recent tests:
• November 2013. 80 registered, 65 showed, 24 passed both tests, one hired.
• January 2014. 96 registered, 85 showed, 37 passed both tests. The department made a conditional offer to a third, but had to withdraw it due to a hiring freeze by the then Town Administrator.
• June 2015. Ten took the written test but did not pass the physical. Five passed both tests. One passed all phases and was hired but failed the entry physical for the Police Academy.
• September 2015. 40 registered, 30 showed, 15 passed both tests, one hired.
The department is advertising the test on electronic signs, through colleges and universities, and on line. They are even going to job fairs, which is an unusual step, Feole said.
These days “it’s very difficult to find someone who has not at least experimented with a drug,” Garone said. But the department follows the Police Standards and Training Council guidelines, and anyone who has been convicted of selling or dealing is disqualified. Each incident of marijuana use is examined, he said, “and it depends on how long ago it was. We apply a formula to evaluate.”
Who would they like to see on Jan. 9? “A man or woman who is in good physical condition, with a good psychological profile, and a personality that lends itself to this kind of work,” Garone said. “They should be able to interact with people, and be good at problem-solving.”
While he’ll look at any reasonable candidate, Garone said his ideal hire is someone with connections to the New England area. These are more likely to stay, he observed.
“And,” Garone said, “They know about the winters.”
Those interested in taking the exam may visit the town Web site at www.derry.nh.us under Employment. There is a link to the testing process, Feole said, and the person can fill out an application and send it in.