Joining the force

When a law enforcement position opens up in Webster County, the process for finding a new officer is similar for most departments.

Recently, both the Webster County Sheriff’s Department and Fort Dodge Police Department have been involved in employment searches of their own to fill vacancies.

On Monday, the Webster County Sheriff’s Department officially welcomed Derek Christie as the newest deputy.

How did that hire – and others – come about?

Sheriff Jim Stubbs said his department’s hiring process begins with an announcement of the vacancy.

“Once the application period is closed, we have the Civil Service Commission set up the physical agility test and the POST (Police Officer Selection Test),” he said. “Those are both scored as pass or fail, and once those are done the eligibility list is certified by the Civil Service Commission.”

After the list of 10 candidates has been certified, Stubbs said a committee comprised of deputies meets to whittle the list to five.

“We do preliminary background checks and the committee interviews those five,” he said. “From there the committee narrows the list of five to their top three picks, which are not ranked in any particular order.”

Those three candidates undergo extensive background checks before they are brought in for interviews with Stubbs and Chief Deputy Rod Strait.

At that point, Stubbs said, candidates are given the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory test, which is a psychological test. Those results are sent to the Sheriff’s Department by the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.

“Based on what has been done, the recommendations of the committee and the recommendation of myself and the chief deputy, the selection is made,” Stubbs said.

Fort Dodge Police Chief Tim Carmody, whose department is in the process of hiring two officers, said there is very little difference in the Police Department’s search process.

“We meet with the Civil Service Commission to set up a three-month time line from posting to actual selection,” Carmody said.

Just like the Sheriff’s Department, Carmody said the Police Department conducts a physical and written test.

“The POST tests the candidates on math, reading comprehension and grammar,” he said. “The candidates also take the MMPI test.”

Those who pass those tests are then interviewed by two panels.

“One of them is a rank-and-file panel and the other is a command staff panel,” Carmody said.

Candidates are also given a stress test and a “pretty extensive” physical test to make sure they are healthy enough to be a police officer.

“From there, we bring the candidates in for a final interview,” Carmody said. “That’s when the conditional offer is made to the candidate.”

Once a background check is completed and all other criteria are met, it is up to the Fort Dodge City Council to approve the officer’s appointment.

Regardless of whether or not the new hire is already a certified police officer, Carmody said training is required.

“Everyone goes through our training process,” he said. “This helps to orient them to our city streets, where everything is, and our department’s procedures. Even if the officer is already certified, that training is a good investment.”

Stubbs said his department also puts new hires through orientation.

“We make sure our new deputies have a good working relationship with the jail staff and their responsibilities,” he said. “For use, we want them to have a good understanding of the inner workings of the department.”

Deputies are also trained on serving civil papers.

“They need to have a working knowledge of all that,” Stubbs said. “It’s not just patrol.”

If the new hire is not a certified law enforcement officer, he or she must also go through training at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy in Johnston.

This is true for both the sheriff and police departments.

The sheriff’s department looks for a number of specific traits in its candidates.

“We want somebody that’s loyal to the department and who is willing to learn and expand their knowledge,” Stubbs said. “Someone that can communicate well, is goal-oriented, and we want to know what they intend to accomplish by working for Webster County.”

Carmody said his department looks for similar characteristics.

“We’re looking for the right person for the job,” he said. “We want them to have the skills and traits to help them fit in.”

The willingness to work as a team is crucial too.

“Being a team player and a motivator is a big part of the job,” Carmody said. “We want to make sure the new hire is a personal fit for the department.”