The Tustin Police Department drew 40 candidates vying for a patrol officer position to its physical ability test early on a recent morning at the Tustin Sports Park.
Like other police agencies across the country, the Tustin Police Department has struggled in recent years to find qualified candidates to fill vacancies in its ranks, which stand at just under 100 sworn personnel when fully staffed. However, Tustin Police Chief Stu Greenberg swore in Officers Andrew Stephens and Christopher Peterson on July 18.
Master Officer Mark Sauerwein and Master Officer Colton Kirwan oversaw several officers who timed the candidates’ execution of physical ability challenges that included scaling a six-foot wall with a chain-link fence on one side and wood slats on the other, a 99-yard obstacle course, dragging a 165-pound dummy, and lastly, a 500-yard run around one of the park’s baseball diamonds.
“The time for practice is over, this is the time to perform,” Sauerwein told candidates at the morning briefing.
Lt. Andrew Birozy of the Professional Standards Division said it’s not just about finding candidates who can meet the physical requirements but also those who are familiar with the City of Tustin and have compelling reasons for why they want to be a Tustin police officer.
“Back in the day, you would only try for one agency,” Birozy said. “Now they’re shotgunning applications all over the place.”
Andre Brown, 26, of Anaheim said he enjoys mentoring at-risk kids who attend his church but also ditch school and get involved with gangs.
“Why not become a police officer to better help them understand what happens?” Brown said.
Brown easily cleared the six-foot wall and led his cohort in the 500-yard run. He said the tryout with the Tustin Police Department was the seventh time he’s applied to become a police officer.
Riane Gallio, 23, of Placentia, was one of two women who participated in Tustin’s recent physical agility test.
“The dummy weighs more than me so it’s a little difficult to get it up (off the ground),” Gallio said.
Gallio demonstrated good technique for getting her leg over the six-foot wall but she wasn’t quite fast enough to move onto the interview stage. She was invited to try again after more practice.
After the physical ability test, Kirwan talked to the candidates about various legal issues that would bar them from becoming a police officer. Among these are a felony conviction, poor credit, a suspended driver’s license, racking up numerous traffic tickets, and recent drug use.
Candidates must also honestly answer background investigators’ questions because any report or testimony they provide as an officer can lose its evidentiary value if someone later discovers a candidate lied on their application, Kirwan said.