Imagine If...

...we had the same requirements for people running for political office that we maintain for people applying for positions in law enforcement. It's a wild idea, I know, primarily because it establishes standards of credibility and integrity, two virtues not generally associated with politicians, but imagine if...


First, the applicant must pass a written exam to display an actual knowledge of the job to which they are applying. We require those with law enforcement aspirations to have a basic understanding of criminal law, grammar and spelling, basic math, reading comprehension and organizational skills, and an elementary grasp of social studies (branches of government and their functions, etc).


Second, the candidate must successfully pass a panel interview composed of experienced personnel who evaluate knowledge, composure, communication skills, decision making capabilities, and especially factors related to credibility and integrity. This phase is what shoots most people down because it is a face-to-face critique involving answers to questions that have no good response and the panel is evaluating that ever-important aspect of being a cop: the ability to think under pressure and respond with calm and logic.


Third, the applicant must pass an extensive background investigation. This phase involves interviews with personal and professional references along with neighbors, employers, landlords, and colleagues. It is the "digging for dirt" phase of the application and involves the candidate to open every personal aspect of their lives, including bank statements, credit card and other debts, drug and alcohol use (drug use usually knocks applicants out of the competition so they lie about it, but just take a peek at the next phase), and is a comprehensive evaluation of honesty, integrity, and truthfulness. A background investigator speaks to the people the candidate lists, but a good investigator asks those references for additional names, especially of those who have seen the applicant in an off-time setting such as playing sports, drinking, interactions with others and especially in personal relationships, both past and current.


Fourth, the lie detector. Why do we want to hook someone up to a machine that measures physical responses to sensitive questions? It all goes back to the old saying, "In God we trust; all others we polygraph." This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, and all those false answers given during the oral interview and background will now come back to haunt the candidate. Lyin' and denyin', the fallback position for virtually every politician that has ever existed, would no longer be accepted. Just like people applying for a law enforcement job, the candidate either has integrity or does not. Can't have just a little, can't say that under most circumstances the truth is first and foremost, the integrity must be present at all times and must last for the duration of employment.


Fifth, the psychological exam. Not many fail this phase, primarily because if the candidate is bat shit crazy it will be obvious to the oral board but, thinking about all the kooks in Congress, maybe this should be bumped up to the first phase of the overall process! The psychological is good for weeding out the sociopaths, egomaniacs, and hopefully the sex offenders (which would disqualify a lot of people already holding public office!).


Sixth, and some agencies do this and others can't afford it, but if the candidate passes the five phases, they must then sit face-to-face with a psychologist for a final interview.


Seventh, the candidate must now successfully complete a 24-week academy, 14-week field training phase, and complete a one- or two-year probation (agencies vary on training academy and probation length, but generally it's 24/14/1). If the candidate survives this phase, they earn the distinction of carrying on a standard of honor, integrity and truthfulness for the rest of a career.


Unlike politicians, law enforcement candidates can't just run for the position and win based on popularity (sheriff's excluded of course), making promises they can't keep, telling the voters to their faces whatever they think it is they want to hear just to garner support, and outright lying. Cops have to be honest and they don't earn the position with input from, say, just ten percent of those actually eligible to cast an opinion.


Most politicians fall far short of the ethical standards of the profession that keeps them safe, and in some cases actually have law enforcement assigned for personal protection, yet they openly badmouth these men and women just to appease the small numbers of malcontents voicing outrage and hatred of them. In essence, it is the criminal element telling elected officials lacking in morals and virtue that the people they need to visit societal reforms upon are those with the most integrity, honesty and decency.


Incongruous behavior, to say the least.











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J.R. LONSWAY

AUTHOR | RETIRED DEPUTY CHIEF OF POLICE

J.R. Lonsway served 22 years with the Las Cruces, New Mexico, police department and retired as a Deputy Chief of Police. After retirement he served with the U.S. Department of State as a police advisor in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Liberia, Haiti, Lebanon, and South Sudan. He is a former U.S. Marine.

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