The latest contingent of potential future recruits for the Tustin Police Department lined up for a romp through the Tustin Sports Park on a recent Saturday.
Candidates considering futures in law enforcement engage in Physical Agility Tests every four to eight weeks as part of the process toward recruitment and possible placement as paid Tustin Police Department recruits in future classes in the O.C. Sheriff’s Regional Academy or the Golden West College Police Academy. Recruits earn about $5,300 monthly, while laterals are paid between about $7,100 and $9,200 monthly.
Of the latest group of 20 applicants, including one potential lateral candidate, 16 passed the agility tests and were invited to an afternoon follow-up interview. Lateral transfer candidates are exempt from the interviews that have already been completed by their existing agencies.
Applicants must pass a written test before being invited to participate in the physical agility tests. The agility portion consists of five tests of basic strength, agility, and endurance: a 500-yard run, a 99-yard obstacle course, a 33-foot drag of a 150-pound dummy, a climb over a six-foot chain-link fence, and, the toughest test, scaling a six-foot shear wall. Traditionally, the wall takes out the most applicants.
In the afternoon interview, the field of applicants was further winnowed. The top candidates go on to have extensive background checks. For many that is where the road ends, as about 70 percent of applicants fail the background checks, at which time alternate candidates begin the background check process.
Those who pass the background advance to become Tustin Police Department-sponsored recruits at a local police academy. Lasting roughly 26 weeks, the academies are certified by the Peace Officer Standards on Training (POST) and provide about 984 hours of training, which is required by most agencies in Orange County.
After the agility drills, candidates were addressed by Tustin police officers about the expectations and values of the department.
“In the panel interview, we want to see if you’re a fit,” Sgt. Colton Kirwan told a group of applicants in March 2022.
For those who do not fare well in the interview, he said, “It doesn’t mean you won’t be a cop. It just might mean that you’re not the right fit for us.”
The background checks include interviews with family, friends, ex-friends and mates, and neighbors, as well as criminal backgrounds, drug use, even credit backgrounds. Applicants have the chance to disclose past bad behavior prior to the background check.
“We’re not looking for saints, none of us are saints. If something has happened in your past, tell me about it,” Kirwan said. “If you hide, omit, or try to minimize it, you’re disqualified immediately.”
At Tustin Police Department, added value is placed in being a community and service-oriented agency.
“I want a person who can do customer service,” Kirwan said. “Hopefully, you’re getting into this because you want to help people.”